Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 131

In the run-up to Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections, five mostly leftist and Russian-leaning organizations have formed an opposition bloc. The bloc’s centerpieces are the Communist Party and the Republican People’s Party, which is led by the former prime minister and presidential aspirant Akezhan Kazhegeldin. The other three, and lesser, organizations in the bloc are the Union of Russian, Slavic and Cossack public associations, the Officers’ Union and the Orleu [Progress] party.

Speaking at an introductory news conference of the bloc’s leaders, Communist Party First Secretary Serikbolsyn Abdildin announced that the component parties will target “the protest vote” in the upcoming elections. The parties have decided to set up a joint campaign headquarters and to nominate joint candidates of the bloc in the single-mandate constituencies. They intend, however, to run separately in the contest of party slates. Kazhegeldin, who has lived mostly abroad since his 1996 resignation from government, will head his party’s slate in the elections, which are scheduled for this September-October (Habar, July 6-7).

Kazhegeldin resigned under a cloud after becoming wealthy while in government. That reported wealth–part of it held abroad–is being investigated in Kazakhstan. His subsequent policy positions suggested a convergence with leftist and Russian-oriented parties in opposition to President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Kazhegeldin has, in parallel, sought allies in both Moscow and Washington. While Moscow has demonstrated a clear preference for dealing with the incumbent president in Astana, Kazhegeldin has managed to draw some support in the West, particularly after Kazakhstani courts disqualified his candidacy in the 1998 presidential election (see the Monitor, April 22).