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Kazakhstan - 1994 Election

Elections were held for all the elective seats of the Parliament provided for in the Constitution of January 1993. General elections for the former 360-seat Supreme Soviet had last taken place in March 1990, prior to the attainment of independence in December 1991.

The outgoing Supreme Soviet dissolved itself on 13 December 1993, five days after having set the March 1994 election date for a new, full-time professional legislature. In the meantime, certain of the Supreme Kenges powers were delegated to President of the Republic Nursultan Nazarbayev until the polling.

After the early dissolution in 1993 of Kazakhstan's first parliament, an election for the 177 seats of the new, "professional" parliament was held in March 1994. The election was so closely managed and restricted by the government that observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE; before 1995, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe initially were reluctant to certify the election as fair.

The parliamentary elections held concurrently with those on the local level were the first since adoption of the independence Constitution in January 1993, which also provided for a multiparty system. On this basis, the Presidents own Union of Peoples Unity of Kazakhstan party was challenged by several newly formed groups, especially the Peoples Congress of Kazakhstan. After reduction through a screening process, 754 candidates were approved to contest the 135 popularly chosen seats. Candidates for the 42 "state list" mandates totalled 65.

The two-month campaign was marked by talk of the country's economy, President Nazarbayev committing himself to the free-market system and continued reforms particularly in the banking and tax spheres with the aim of attracting foreign investment.

Polling procedures were monitored by foreign observers, especially a parliamentary delegation of the CSCE, which called into question the free and fair nature of the vote. Final results gave a clear majority to supporters of the President and a total of approximately 60% of the parliamentary seats to ethnic Kazakhs.

Despite his careful electoral management, Nazarbayev netted a reliable bloc of only about sixty of the 177 seats. The remaining deputies quickly organized themselves into a "constructive" opposition bloc, a center-left configuration calling itself Respublika. It included a number of disparate political groups. A subgroup of Respublika organized a shadow cabinet to provide alternative viewpoints and programs to those of the government.

At the end of May 1994, the parliament passed a vote of no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Sergey Tereshchenko, who had been in office since 1991. Nazarbayev put off dismissing Tereshchenko, citing the provision of the 1993 constitution giving the president the right to name the prime minister, subject only to parliamentary confirmation. By midyear, however, parliament was in rebellion against the president, and a new faction of Respublika, including a broad range of communist, nationalist, and special-issue parties, demanded the resignations of Nazarbayev and Tereshchenko.

In mid-October, following a month-long scandal over the private dealings of Tereshchenko's ministers of internal affairs and the economy (the second of whom was indicted), Nazarbayev was finally forced to dismiss the Tereshchenko government. Nazarbayev named industrialist Akezhan Kazhegeldin to replace Tereshchenko. As chief of a northern industrial conglomerate, Kazhegeldin, a Kazak, was closely associated with the Russian-controlled sector of Kazakstan prior to 1991.

By late 1994 parliament was emerging as a particular focus for anti-Nazarbayev sentiment. Although extremely unproductive itself, passing only seven laws during its year of existence, parliament severely impeded Nazarbayev's privatization programs, causing the complete cessation of privatization voucher distribution. At the end of 1994, the parliament issued its own alternative New Economic Policy, in competition with Nazarbayev's, and parliament also attempted to take over actual disbursement of funds for the state budget. At the same time, parliament was providing a forum for several skilled and well-financed men to position themselves for a challenge to Nazarbayev in the presidential election scheduled for 1996.

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