Kazakhstan’s ruling Amanat party has won a snap parliamentary election held on Sunday, exit polls show.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is expected to strengthen his grip on power and complete a reshuffle of the ruling elite, which began after he fully assumed leadership last year.
The election will also provide a stronger mandate for Tokayev to navigate through the regional turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has damaged trade, investment, and supply chains throughout the former Soviet Union.
Exit polls show that the Amanat party won 53-54 percent of the vote, enough to retain a comfortable majority. The Central Election Commission reported that voter turnout stood at 54.2 percent.
Although Tokayev became president in 2019, he 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.
Tokayev suppressed political unrest in the oil-rich Central Asian country and sidelined Nazarbayev, leading to a reshuffle of the government. The lower house of parliament, elected when Nazarbayev still had sweeping powers and led the ruling Nur Otan party, was not due for election until 2026, but Tokayev called a snap vote.
Unlike Nazarbayev, Tokayev has chosen not to lead the ruling party, 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. Several opposition figures were running as independents, which may allow some government critics to win a limited number of seats. However, in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, voting appeared slow on Sunday amid a heavy police presence on the streets.
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 invasion of Ukraine or recognize its annexation of some Ukrainian territories.
Astana is trying to maintain good relationships with both Moscow, its neighbor, and major trading partner, and the West, which seeks to isolate Russia.