On the Opposition’s Electoral Tactics

The upcoming Mazhilis and Maslikhats elections (the former one will be conducted on the party list basis only) are causing the anticipated excitement among those who can be called an opposition of the current authorities.

Let us quote a Facebook post published by human rights activist and publicist Sergey Duvanov who presents the following description of the process (text in bold by KZ.expert).

“A vivid discussion is going on on social media regarding the electoral participation of those whom the authorities forbade nominating their parliamentary elections candidates. The authorities have prepared for the upcoming elections quite well: they have done everything they can to exclude any possibility for the non-loyal politicians and civil activists to participate in the elections. This is a catch 22 situation – anywhere you look, there is an obstacle!

In these circumstances, the authorities’ political opponents have absolutely no chance to have their representatives in the Parliament. So, they are debating the question how they can express at least their objection to Nur-Otan’s pre-panned victory.

There are three tactics of electoral participation. The first one is to vote for any of the parties except Nur-Otan. The second one is to vote for the Nationwide Social Democratic Party (that represents the official opposition). Finally, the third one is to damage the bulletins by scoring out all the parties.

There is also a fourth tactics, a boycott. The supporters of “an active boycott”, instead of voting, urge to hold a protest after the elections. However, the boycott is devoid of logic. One cannot protest against something in which one has not participated. Protesting is logical after we have been deceived, after our votes have been stolen and counted in favour of the ruling party”.

In our opinion, in this particular instance, any activity on the part of the opposition will result in nothing; the Nur Otan party is going to “win” the Mazhilis and maslikhats elections no matter what. Of course, this victory may very-well be a “Pyrrhic” one.

This may happen if, consequently to Kazakhstan’s usual practices, such as –

a) the straightforwardness of the management mechanisms and their drive towards not the result but the process,

b) the unwillingness on the part of officials to risk their positions, in other words, to act independently,

c) the habit of the officials of all levels to play the fool with their bosses to their advantage,

only the Nur Otan party makes it to the Parliament.

In this case, Akorda will have to falsify the results of the elections after the fact and bring at least one more party to the Mazhilis to perform the role of the opposition. However, this does not at all mean that the opposition, in other words, the people who are currently debating which electoral tactics to choose, has already lost the game. Their defeat is unavoidable in one case only – if they give up and attempt nothing.

In all other cases, even if they don’t win, they’ll certainly not lose, either, because -

a) they will show that the country’s got the people who disagree with the Library and Akorda,

b) they will get an opportunity to articulate their programs, goals, tasks, slogans and ideas,

c) they will get a chance to promote themselves and their organisations.

In our opinion, the current Kazakh opposition is different from that of the past in that the current one is democratic not just in its political agenda and goals but in its staff composition, the way it accepts new members and in its modus operandi. Consequently, it is much harder for the current opposition to organise itself and start acting cooperatively. On the other hand, however, it cannot be destroyed via killing off the leaders or kicking them out of the country (or the political arena) or via simply buying them off.

In these circumstances, Akorda and the Library may continue cherishing the hope that, by employing the tried police brutalities, they will manage to fight those who do not just disagree with them but who express their disagreement publicly, moreover, who are willing to take to streets and defend their political position by other methods. However, the authorities cannot win. One cannot destroy a democratic opposition, one can only weaken it temporarily, to arrest its development.

Perhaps not everyone will agree with us, but the low professional level of the pro-governmental political experts and the the down-skilling of Akorda’s residents who seem to have become accustomed to the fact that no one is trying to disagree with them (not just on the streets but in the minds as well) means that it is they who will inflict the major blow against the Kazakh authoritarian political system and the “super-presidential” vertical.

In his post, Sergey Duvanov describes one of the possible ways this blow can be inflicted (quoting):

“It is only the fact of deceit that can anger people. And the deceit is definitely going to take place if the opposition participates in the elections: according to the plan of the authorities, Nur Otan cannot lose. And, if that happens, a second part of the election campaign may take place. I am talking about the protests of the deceived and angered people who may finally take to the streets”.

Taking into consideration the almost thirty years of the post-Soviet experience, the official cause of massive-scale protests does not matter. Something else is important here – at a given moment and place, the protestors must get the advantage over those who fight them.

And since, in Kazakhstan, this kind of thing may happen anytime anywhere that has already been proved by the numerous tragedies starting with the Shanyrak and Zhanaozen events and ending with the recent events in the Almaty region, one’s got no reason to envy the position Akorda and the Library are in now.


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