Kazakhstan voted in a snap parliamentary election widely expected to cement President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s position and complete a reshuffle of the ruling elite that began after he fully assumed leadership last year.
Exits polls showed the ruling Amanat party winning 53-54 percent of the vote, enough to retain a comfortable majority. Voter turnout stood at 54.2 percent, the Central Election Commission said.
A stronger mandate will help Tokayev navigate through regional turmoil caused by Russia-Ukraine conflict and the subsequent damage to trade, investment and supply chains throughout the former Soviet Union.
Although he formally became president in 2019, Tokayev, 69, had remained in the shadow of his predecessor and former patron Nursultan Nazarbayev until January 2022, when the two fell out amid an attempted coup and violent unrest.
While Tokayev has reshuffled the government, the lower house of parliament – elected when Nazarbayev still led the ruling Nur Otan party – was not due for election until 2026, and the president called a snap vote.
Unlike Nazarbayev, Tokayev has chosen not to lead the ruling party, and rebranded Amanat, but it is certain to form the core of his support base in the legislature.
Five other parties set to win seats also support Tokayev.
However, for the first time in almost two decades, several opposition figures were running as independents, a move which may allow some government critics to win a limited number of seats.
Tokayev, who cast his ballot in Astana early in the morning without talking to the press, has said the vote would allow him to start implementing his plan to reform the country and ensure a fairer distribution of its oil wealth.
The completion of the political transition is also likely to strengthen Tokayev’s hand in foreign policy. Despite receiving Moscow’s backing during the 2022 unrest, he has refused to support Russia’s offensive in Ukraine or recognise its annexation of some Ukrainian territories.
Astana is trying to maintain good relationships with both Moscow, its neighbour and major trading partner, and the West.