Kazakhstan's ruling Nur Otan party has completed a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, a result that tightens its control over a country that hosts giant oil and gas developments, including Kashagan in the Caspian Sea.
The party — founded by long-time president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who only stepped aside in 2019 — secured 72% of votes cast on 10 January, according to the Kazakh Central Election Commission.
Two other political parties that passed the 7% threshold to reach the parliament – Ak Zhol and the People’s Party – are openly loyal to Nur Otan and the government.
Opposition parties boycotted the elections, alleging widespread electoral fraud and the repression of alternative candidates who are not endorsed by authorities.
Despite President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev promising social reforms since he took over, Nazarbayev has retained a strong grip over power in the country, remaining Nur Otan’s chairman, as well as Elbasy – a title meaning leader of the nation.
High turnout disputed
Authorities reported the final turnout at polling stations at over 63%. However, there is scepticism over the alleged high turnout as Kazakhstan has been hit with extreme cold temperatures in the last few days, forcing people to stay indoors.
Low temperatures have caused major power outages in the north of Kazakhstan, with the country having to halt transit pipeline shipments of its crude oil via the Russian trunkline network because of blackouts.
Meanwhile, police detained dozens of protesters near polling stations across the country on Sunday, releasing them at the end of the day without any charges, and blocked independent observers from entering the stations.
Kazakhstan is home to three major oil and gas developments — Tengiz, Kashagan and Karachaganak — where several international oil majors are shareholders and operators, with China National Petroleum Corporation and Russia's Lukoil holding major stakes in several other upstream projects.