Second Big Political Alliance Emerges

Second Big Political Alliance Emerges

Several centre-right parties in Kazakstan have formed a political alliance which could grow into a competitor for the giant ruling party Nur Otan, itself greatly strengthened by recent mergers. However, political analysts are sceptical that the conditions yet exist for two rival parties to exist side by side.



Four political groups – the right-wing Atameken, the Sootechestvennik party, the Alash People’s Party, and the National Federation of Kazak Farmers – announced their merger last week. The new group will be called the Kazakstan Centre-Right Atameken Party. or KPPP for short.



None of these parties is officially registered with the authorities. Atameken is in the early stages of registration, while the other three were denied renewal of their legal status in 2003, after new legislation came out requiring political parties to have a minimum of 50,000 members.



The new union claims a total membership of 170,000 – still relatively few for a country with a population of 15 million. By way of comparison, the pro-presidential Nur Otan has 960,000 members and controls about 90 per cent of the seats in parliament. The party was renamed at the end of 2006, when Otan swallowed up the Asar, Civic and Agrarian parties.



Kazakhstan-based analysts note that the new centre-right coalition also enjoys government backing, and they interpret this to mean the bloc is unlikely to grow into a serious rival to Nur Otan.



“Since Atameken’s leaders say their programme is pro-presidential, any possible attempt to affiliate with the opposition would be a pretence, a temporary tactic,” said Andrei Chebotarev, who heads the Alternativa Centre for Contemporary Studies.



Even if the bloc establishes itself, Kazakstan will continue to follow the familiar pattern where one party rather than two dominates the political scene, said Chebotarev.



Sabit Jusupov, president of the Kazakhstan Institute for Social and Economic Information, takes a similar view, arguing that Atameken’s particular political and ideological base – the business community – is not conducive to makign it a strong competitor against Nur Otan.



“It is clear that the niche that Atameken has carved out for itself has proved utterly hopeless,” said Jusupov. “I think the whole idea of creating a party out of business interests was always utopian and unrealistic.”



By contrast, Erkin Tukumov, executive director of the Central Asian Foundation for the Development of Democracy, believes it is possible that the shifts now occurring in the political landscape could point to the emergence of a political system in which strong right-wing and social-democratic blocs exist as well as the ruling party.



But Tukumov stresses that inter-party rivalries will be held in check. “Given that all parties here are set up artificially, any competition between them will be generated by the authorities who created them,” he said.



(News Briefing Central Asia draws comment and analysis from a broad range of political observers across the region.)



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