Kazakhstan held indirect elections to the upper house of its parliament yesterday, and goes on to hold direct elections to the lower house December 9. Under Kazakhstan’s constitution, the country’s 20 administrative units–19 regions and the capital city–each elect two senators in a two-tiered process. Elected officials of the regional administrations convene in special regional conferences to act in turn as electors, choosing the region’s two senators in secret balloting. The winner will serve a four-year term and the runner-up a two-year term in the Senate. In addition, the president is empowered by the constitution to appoint seven senators. This prerogative adds to the indirect election system in practically subordinating the Senate to the executive power.
In yesterday’s senatorial elections, forty-nine candidates contested the 40 elective seats of the upper house. Thirty-eight senators were elected, most of them apparently supporters of president Nursultan Nazarbayev. The authorities appear to have aimed for the election of one ethnic Kazakh and one ethnic Russian in regions with mixed population. Runoff elections have to be scheduled in two regions before Nazarbayev proceeds to appoint the additional seven senators.
In the elections for the lower house or Mazhlis, 172 candidates nominated by political parties and public organizations and 113 independent candidates are running for the 67 seats. Of the six main parties in competition, at least three are pro-Nazarbayev parties led by presidential and government officials. The most active opposition party is the communist party, which proposes to restore state socialism and the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan has been ruled by presidential decrees since the former legislature was dissolved in March of this year. Two referenda have since approved the extension of Nazarbayev’s term of office until the year 2000 and the new constitution which grants the president almost discretionary powers.
1. Interfax, December 5
2. Reuter, December 6
3. Itar-Tass, December 5
4. Reuter, December 5
5. Petroleum Information Agency, December 5
6. Itar-Tass, November 29 and December 5; Ukrainian Radio, November 27
7. Interfax, December 5
8. Interfax, December 5
9. Itar-Tass, Kommersant Daily, Interfax, AP, December 5
10. Itar-Tass and Interfax, December 5
11. Reuter, December 5
12. Interfax-Ukraine, December 2 and 5; Segodnya, December 2
13. Belta-Tass, Belarusian Radio, December 5
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