Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kazakhstan's Election Law Change

Kazakhstan's upper house (Senate) approved changes to the Law on Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan and Law on Political Parties (discussed in a previous post. Also see today's press releases by the Khabar News Agency and Associated Press). The main modifications include a provision to allocate seats to at least two political parties, even if only one passes the 7% threshold, and a reduction in the total number of signatures required for party registration to 40,000 (from 50,000) and a minimum of 600 in each region. Opposition politicians have advocated for a lower threshold (3%) and better representation on electoral commissions.

The primary audience for these reforms is external. By making changes that President Nazarbayev promised in the summer, Kazakhstan demonstrates that it is eager to claim the chairmanship of the OSCE and is willing to make modest institutional changes to mollify critics. Once signed by President Nazarbayev, these changes will have a limited effect on politics in Kazakhstan. The most likely outcome is for a second pro-government party to gain a modest number of seats in the next parliamentary election.

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