Nur Sultan (Agenzia Fides) - "After the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, it was believed that Kazakhstan could open itself to the first democratic concessions on a political and economic level and emulate the so-called 'Uzbek model'. However, this did not happen. Nazarbayev's resignation has awakened public opinion and triggered greater pressure from below: it is evident that in some sections of the population, especially among the youngest, a strong discontent towards politics is beginning to spread. Awareness has grown that the regime can be criticized through forms of symbolic and media dissent, and the spectrum of protests has broadened, but the authorities' approach has remained the same, also because the legacy and influence of Nazarbayev's authoritarian regime are still very strong, with the parliamentary elections held on January 10th in a climate of general oppression against all forms of opposition". This is what Davide Cancarini, an expert on Central Asian politics, told Fides about the elections in Kazakhstan.
The January 10 election did not come as a big surprise: On January 11, the Central Election Commission declared the overwhelming victory (with 71% of the vote) of the 'Nur Otan' party, led by former president Nazarbayev. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, his successor, described Sunday's election as "a further step in the country's democratic development".
Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) complained that "systemic restrictions on the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution have prevented voters from making real choices". During the election day, the arrest of several demonstrators in Almaty and the capital Nur-Sultan was reported and some non-governmental organizations were prevented from following the voting proceedings.
Freedom of expression continues to represent a critical issue in Kazakhstan. In 2020 the Central Asian country was ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the annual press freedom ranking of the organization "Reporters Without Borders". On the other hand, freedom of religion is guaranteed. For years it was the flagship of Nazarbayev's policy and was continued by his successor Tokayev: in reality, it is part of a carefully considered policy of control over religions aimed at preventing the possible emergence of violent Islamist groups.
According to official data provided by the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of the country’s over 17 million inhabitants, approximately 26% are Christians, and 1% are Catholics. (LF-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 12/1/2021)