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Kazakh Opposition Group Allowed To Hold Rally Challenging Upcoming Polls

A Democratic Party supporter holds a single-person protest in Almaty on November 6.
A Democratic Party supporter holds a single-person protest in Almaty on November 6.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Authorities in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, have given an unregistered party permission to hold a protest rally ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections as its members continue to stage individual protests calling for the group’s official registration.

Democratic Party leader Zhanbolat Mamai told RFE/RL on November 5 that he had obtained permission to organize the rally on November 14.

"Four main points will be announced at the rally: the release of all political prisoners; the boycott of the January 10 parliamentary election unless opposition and independent parties are registered and allowed to take part; a fiscal amnesty; and a ban on land leasing to foreigners," Mamai said.

For several days, Democratic Party activists have been holding single-person pickets that do not require authorities' permission, demanding the registration of their party and other political groups so that they could take part in the parliamentary vote.

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Aruzhan Duisebaeva, one of the party activists who held a single-person picket on November 6, told RFE/RL that none of President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev's promises of political reform has materialized as his government tries its best "to stay in power through repression and refusal to register political parties."

The Central Election Commission said on November 5 that six officially registered parties will take part in the elections scheduled for January 10. The parties include the ruling Nur-Otan; four pro-government parties -- Aq Zhol, Auyl, Birlik, and the Communist People's Party -- and the All-National Social Democratic Party that describes itself as an opposition group.

Mamai and other Democratic Party activists insist that there are no real independent or opposition parties among the registered political groups in the oil-rich Central Asian nation.

The January 10 polls will be first parliamentary elections since Toqaev succeeded Nursultan Nazarbaev, who resigned in March last year after nearly three decades in power.

Nazarbaev still maintains key positions of power, including head of the country’s powerful Security Council and ruling Nur-Otan party. He also enjoys almost limitless powers and immunity as "elbasy" -- leader of the nation.

The 107-seat Majlis is currently dominated by Nazarbaev’s Nur-Otan, which has 84 deputies.

The Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan and the Aq Zhol party each have seven seats.

The remaining nine seats are appointed by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, an advisory body controlled by Nazarbaev.

The last parliamentary elections were held in March 2016.

International election observers say that past elections in Kazakhstan have been neither free nor fair, citing electoral fraud, repression of opposition candidates, and restrictions on the freedom of the press.

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