Nur-Sultan [Kazakhstan], January 10 (ANI): Elections are taking place today in Kazakhstan to the Mazhilis, the lower House of Parliament, as well as the Maslikhats, local representative bodies. 98 members of parliament are selected from nationwide party lists that pass the 7% threshold, while the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, a constitutional body representing the country's various ethnic communities, elects nine.
312 candidates are standing from across five parties. Reflecting the diversity of Kazakh society, the candidates include 90 women (29%), 19 people under the age of 29, and representatives from 12 ethnicities.
Candidates from five political parties registered by the Central Election Commission - Nur Otan, People's Party of Kazakhstan, Ak Zhol Democratic Party, AuylPeople's Democratic Patriotic Party and Adal - are participating in the elections. To facilitate the voting, 10,061 polling stations are available for an electorate of 11 million voters, including 66 in Kazakhstan's overseas missions in 53 countries.
The elections will be the first since the implementation of a package of political reforms designed to increase further the openness, fairness, and transparency of Kazakhstan's electoral system. They include consolidating an institute of the parliamentary opposition, which provides additional guarantees for the representation of parliamentary minority parties in the governing structures of the legislation body. In addition, the number of signatures needed to create a political party with the ability to contest elections has been halved. Furthermore, procedures for political activism, including holding national assemblies and rallies have been simplified.
These reforms are in line with the concept of a "listening state", proposed by the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, implying strengthened accountability of the government to citizens.
To ensure transparency and fairness, 398 foreign observers, who have been accredited for the election, including from 10 international organisations and 31 foreign states, representatives of political parties, hundreds of domestic and more than 100 accredited foreign media, as well as domestic observers, will monitor the election.
The exit polls data are expected at midnight Nur-Sultan time on 11 January. A press conference by the Central Election Commission on the preliminary results will take place during the following day.
The previous parliamentary election in Kazakhstan took place in March 2016. It led to the three-party Mazhilis with the ruling Nur Otan party holding a parliamentary majority. (ANI)