One of Kazakhstan's main opposition parties has accused the government of conducting a smear campaign ahead of this weekend's parliamentary elections.
Zharmakhan Tuyakbai and Amirzhan Kosanov, co-chairmen of the Social Democratic-Azat Party (OSDP-Azat), made the comments during a press conference in Almaty on January 10.
Addressing recent media reports of party defections to other political camps, including the pro-government Aq Zhol party, Tuyakbai said that such departures had taken place in 2008, not recently.
"Besides," he added, "joining or leaving a political party is a completely normal thing."
Tuyakbai sought to reassure voters that OSDP-Azat is actively campaigning for seats in the new parliament and that there is no risk of the party disbanding.
Kosanov alleged that the smear effort was intended to divert attention from the government's shortcomings, including its handling of economic issues.
The National Social Democratic and Azat parties merged in 2009, but the new political formation has not been officially registered. Azat is supporting OSDP candidates in the January 15 elections.
Eight political parties have been registered to take part in the contest for seats in the Mazhilis, the lower house of parliament.
In the 2007 parliamentary elections, President Nursultan Nazarbaev's Nur-Otan party gained control of all seats in the 107-member Mazhilis. Nazarbaev dissolved the parliament in November and called early elections.
written Farangis Najibullah, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service