LGBTQ Politics in Kazakhstan: A Cross-Cutting Electoral Cleavage?


For many decades domestic politics in Kazakhstan has pivoted around monolithic state structures, dependent on such a concentrated leadership elite, that outside observers might surmise the country was controlled by family dynasties. In January 2022, the regime faced a number of organized protests which prompted President Tokayev to seek Moscow’s assistance. On 20 November, he ran successfully for re-election with a political landscape very different from the overwhelming, almost devotional, proneness exercised by his predecessor – president Nazarbayev. It was an unusual time in Kazak politics and offered an opportunity for competing interest groups to electorally assert themselves. The President achieved an overwhelming victory amidst complaints of electoral malfeasance from the OSCE and others. However, the election itself did draw attention to alternative voices which had not previously darkened the Kazak electoral stratosphere. This naturally prompts one to consider if, in such a hierarchical political system, there is further room for genuine cross-cutting electoral cleavages which might (for example) persuade future voters not to opt for one of the three-party “coalitions” of political entities (Amanat, People’s Party and Aqzhol) which essentially represents the President. These “political parties” are quite overtly proxies, a word which is not used either negatively or as a euphemism in Kazakhstan, and instead describes a form of pseudo-democracy which makes it appear that there is voter presence when, in fact, the principal three parties are genuinely a phalanx of President Tokayev. The remaining parties (such as the farmer’s party, Ayul, the Eco-Party and OSDP) scored nominal electoral support. However, their existence, helps sustain illusions of democracy in a state supporting a “one horse race.”

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