The Speaker of the Kazakhstan Majilis, the lower house of the Kazakhstan Parliament, announced his resignation on October 18 in protest over what he termed crude violations of electoral process in Kazakhstan’s September parliamentary elections. Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, who went public with his complaints of executive branch interference in the election process in an article entitled “A Time of Choice” published on October 14, charged, “There is every indication that the September 19 parliamentary elections were conducted with mass violations of voters rights” (Vremya, October 14).
Kazakhstan’s closely watched parliamentary election took place on September 19, with a second round of parliamentary voting on October 3. According to the official results, the pro-presidential Otan Party gained 42 of parliament’s 77 seats. The Agrarian and Civic Party bloc, also pro-presidential in its orientation, won 11 seats, and the Asar party, headed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, captured only four seats. The reformist Ak Zhol party took two seats and the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan won only one seat. The leading opposition parties, the Communists and Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, failed to gain representation in parliament.
According to official accounts, over 1,000 independent observers were on hand to monitor Kazakhstan’s parliamentary election. The Kazakhstan Central Election Commission claimed that the elections were basically free and fair. Otan party chairman Serik Beisekov also claimed the elections were essentially “correct.” But many other voices disagreed. The Ak Zhol party bitterly contested the elections. Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the leader of the Communist Party, denounced the outcome as a farce (Navi.kz, October 18). A delegation from the Commonwealth of Independent States announced that the elections were free and fair, while the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concluded that the elections fell short of international standards.
Tuyakbai’s resignation as the third-highest-ranking public official in Kazakhstan is doubly embarrassing because he was also the deputy chairman of the Otan party, the winner in the September elections. Tuyakbai said in his “Time of Choice” article that Otan’s sweep of more than 60% of the seats in the Majilis represented a hollow victory because executive branch interference undermined the legitimacy of the elections. He claimed that there were many electoral violations that were plainly visible for observers to see, but these only represented “the tip of the iceberg.” Tuyakbai summed up the parliamentary elections saying, “Instead of hope, there is disappointment. Instead of consolidation there is division and mutual suspicion. Instead of pride for Kazakhstan there is the feeling of disgrace and embarrassment” (Vremya, October 14). Tuyakbai announced at a press conference in Almaty on October 18 that he would also resign from his post as vice-chairman of the Otan party.
Tuyakbai is the highest ranking and most respected of many Kazakhstan political figures to criticize Kazakhstan’s recent political trends. Almost immediately following the elections the Minister of Information, Altynbek Sarsenbayev, submitted his resignation to President Nazarbayev, saying that he found it impossible to continue to be a member of the executive branch of government when such “falsification of the public will” was taking place (Grani.ru, September 20). Tuyakbai’s resignation may be different from that of others in the respect that it was meant to criticize the direction of political trends but at the same time to demonstrate his continued loyalty to Nursultan Nazarbayev as president. As Tuyakbai explained, “Today I am not interested in my own fate, but rather how the state will decide what to do about that electoral campaign, and what measures will be taken with respect to those people who carried out the unfair elections” (Gazeta.kz, October 19).
There is considerable speculation in Kazakhstan now about whether Tuyakbai’s resignation represents a statement in favor of the principles of open, democratic, and fair political process or whether it represents some more complex gambit in the labyrinthine politics of Kazakhstan’s cliques and clans. Tuyakbai’s resignation may come as yet another sign of the intensifying politics in anticipation of succession. Imangali Tasmagambetov, the former prime minister who resigned early in 2003 only to return to the center of power as the head of the presidential administration, now has regained influence at the core of the executive branch. Tuyakbai’s break with the Otan party may represent an opportunity for him to swing away from the status quo toward the moderate reformist Ak Zhol party in anticipation of the 2006 presidential elections.