The Election of 1994

Kazakstan Table of Contents

After the early dissolution in 1993 of Kazakstan'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--CSCE--see Glossary) initially were reluctant to certify the election as fair.

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.

Thus, 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.

In March 1995, Kazakstan's Constitutional Court ruled the 1994 parliamentary election invalid because of procedural irregularities that, among other things, waived certain requirements for pro-Nazarbayev candidates. After filing a token objection, Nazarbayev announced the dissolution of parliament and new elections to be held in two or three months. The Council of Ministers that had been approved by that parliament then resigned en masse. Using emergency powers granted him upon the dissolution of the 1990-93 parliament, Nazarbayev reappointed Prime Minister Kazhegeldin, who installed a new Council of Ministers. Unlike its virtually all-Kazak predecessor, the new body put the key Ministry of Finance under a Russian, Aleksandr Pavlov, and gave the Ministry of the Economy portfolio to a Middle Horde Kazak from the Russified north. One of Kazhegeldin's two new first deputy prime ministers was Kazak; the other was Russian. The new head of the Privatization Commission, Sarybay Kalmurzayev, also apparently was a Middle Horder. He not only began to permit privatization auctioneers to accept cash in addition to vouchers, but also began to give Russian companies rights of first refusal in privatization of large industrial plants, especially military ones. In April 1995, Nazarbayev staged a referendum that ratified extension of his presidency until December 2000 by a 95 percent majority. In December 1995, Nazarbayev issued a decree enabling him to annul any existing law, demand the government's resignation, or order new parliamentary elections. This step furthered the authoritarian direction of Kazakstan's government.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress