They Will Change the Rules but Not the People

Last week, the Lower House of the Kazakhstan Parliament approved the legislature on amendments to the Constitutional law «On Elections», the Budget and Administrative Codes, the laws «On the Local State Management and Self-Management in the Republic of Kazakhstan», «On Political Parties» and «On the State Service».

According to the amendments, the governors of the villages, small towns, rural districts, and the cities of the regional jurisdiction will now by elected directly for the duration of four years. The regional territory commissions will be eliminated, and their functions are to be performed by the regional election commissions. The local bodies representatives of all levels will be elected via the proportional system.

Since there is practically 100% probability that the Senate approves the legislature and the Presidents signs it, one can say that yet another experiment on improving the citizens’ positive activity via their involvement in the process of the state management has begun.

With that, Akorda, as usual, has made the assurance double sure. First, only the citizens  passed through the sieve of the legal political parties can become the deputies of the local bodies. Second, the local governors’ elections will be held by the regional election commissions vertically subordinate to the Central Election Committee, horizontally — to the regional governors (unofficially though).

As a result, the rules of the game will drastically change on the lower level: the non-systemic citizens (much less the opposition-oriented ones) are unlikely to be elected as deputies of the local bodies, and the population, having received the right to elect the local governors, is simultaneously removed from the participation in the control over the election process.

So far, it is hard to predict whether the new configuration of the local power will be more effective than the previous one. As of today, the local governors are the officials who de-facto are responsible for everything in their town or district. With that, they have very little power since, apart from the seal, they have nothing — be it money, or authorities, or professionalism.

Since, from now on, local governors are to be elected by their citizens for the term of four years, they will have their own budgets albeit the minimal ones, and they will be controlled by the local bodies’ deputies formed by the legal political parties. So, there is a chance that the situation will change. Of course, this chance is miniscule since the rules of the game are slightly changing, however, the local people remain as well as the external environment.

In other words, the local elites that primarily determine who becomes a local body deputy of a local governor (unless, of course, the governor above them or Astana disapproves) remain the main albeit shadow voter. And the legal political parties including «Nur Otan» are not going to «revive» since the new model of the imitation of the domestic political process will not be able to replace the real political fight for the power.

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