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Central Asia’s biggest country Kazakhstan, has taken a cue from its South Asian partner India, and has initiated a process to decentralize its power structure through direct elections of representatives at the district level.

This was decided last week by President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev when he signed a number of laws. They include the introduction of direct elections of rural akims (mayors of regional districts), lowering the threshold for political parties to get elected into the Majilis (lower chamber of Kazakhstan Parliament) from 7% to 5% of votes, and the introduction of the “against all” option on voting ballots in all elections.

It may be noted that Indian model of decentralization of power till district and village level has been hugely successful and now drawing attention from partner countries. India had introduced NOTA in the voting process.

The introduction of direct elections of rural mayors will facilitate the involvement of citizens and enhance the accountability of local government bodies towards the needs and issues of the population. This has what has been achieved in India.

To be elected as a rural mayor, a candidate must be at least 25 years of age at the time of the election.

Elections will be announced 40 days in advance and will be held 10 days before the expiration of the term of the incumbent akim. The term of the election campaign will be 30 days. Lowering the threshold from 7% to 5% of votes for political parties to get elected into the Majilis of Parliament will increase political competition. Introduction of the “against all” option on voting ballots is a democratic tool that enables voters to voice an alternative opinion, which creates conditions for the protection of the electoral rights of citizens.

These amendments to certain legislative acts on elections were adopted as part of Tokayev’s concept of the “Listening state”, in the framework of the key initiatives of his political reforms’ package, according to an official statement.

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