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Kazakhstan Eyeing Two-Party System?

Sworn in ... again
Sworn in ... again
Kazakh authorities are apparently no longer happy with their one-party system, and would like to see more political groups entering the parliament -- at least according to the country's high-ranking officials.

"The next parliament will be multi-party," said Nursultan Nazarbaev, who was sworn in for his fourth term in office in a ceremony in Astana today.

"We need at least a two-party parliament," presidential adviser Yermukhamet Yertysbaev told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service earlier this week.

Prime Minister Karim Masimov has also mentioned what he called the "necessity" of having representatives of opposition parties in parliament. Currently, Nazarbaev's Nur-Otan party occupies all parliamentary seats.

Even before any election, Yertysbaev seems to have a pretty clear idea about which parties should enter the next parliament. "It could be possible to establish a new political party based on the Atameken business union," Yertysbaev told local media. Atameken is a nongovernmental union that brings together dozens of major business companies.

"Nur-Otan would be positioned as a party representing the government and the political elite, state officials, scientific and academic circle -- basically, a classic centrist party," Yertysbaev suggested. Yertysbaev said it might take some five years to fully establish a two-party system in Kazakhstan, just "like Republicans and Democrats in the United States or Conservatives and Labour Party lawmakers in Britain."

As for all other Kazakh political parties, Nazarbaev's adviser suggested that they should either join Nur-Otan or enter a future Ata-Meken party.

Kazakhstan's opposition leaders, however, don't seem to have high hopes. The authorities need an opposition that "does everything they are told," says Vladimir Kozlov, the leader of an unregistered Algha party. "Obviously, they wouldn't let real opposition into parliament," Kozlov told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service.

In the meantime, Kazakh officials aren't ruling out early parliamentary elections. Almost immediately after announcing the presidential election results, Nazarbaev's political adviser mentioned the possibility of dissolving parliament and having a snap poll later this year. The vote is currently scheduled for August 2012.

-- Farangis Najibullah