NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh parliament's upper chamber, the Senate, has approved a draft law introducing the concept of an opposition, legislation that has been dubbed in the media as the “parliamentary opposition” bill and harshly criticized as misleading by the tightly controlled Central Asian nation's political opposition.
The bill approved by the Senate on May 28 is expected to get endorsed by President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev.
The bicameral Kazakh parliament consists mainly of members of the president-backed Nur-Otan party led by the former President Nursultan Nazarbaev, and two other parties loyal to the ruling party.
The idea of formalizing the concept of the opposition was proposed by Toqaev in December 2019 at a session of the National Council of Public Confidence, a forum initiated by Toqaev to mediate between the authorities and civil rights activists.
Toqaev was picked by Nazarbaev as his successor last year after suddenly resigning from the post he held for almost 30 years.
Toqaev officially won an election last June -- a vote that was roundly criticized as rigged -- and has tried to position himself as a reformer, pushing forward proposals that many in the former Soviet republic have called populist.
Toqaev's critics note that there is no prospect for real opposition groups to be allowed to get seats in a parliament dominated by the Nur-Otan party, which Nazarbaev continues to lead and control while also remaining the head of the powerful Security Council and carrying the title of elbasy, or national leader.
The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2021.