INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF THE PARTY SYSTEM IN KAZAKHSTAN AND RUSSIA: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
Lydia Karmazina, Ph.D. (Political Science), acting associate professor at the Department of Theoretical and Applied Political Science, School of International Relations, Abai Kazakh National Pedagogical University (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
Genesis and Institutionalization of the Kazakhstani and Russian “Parties of Power”
A government that has closed its ranks to form a party (the academic community has aptly tagged this “the party of power”) is another striking feature of the period under review. The party of power competes with all the other parties for the electorate’s votes. This political phenomenon of Russia and Kazakhstan is a logical product of authoritarian democracy realized through the super-presidential form of government in both countries.
Since 1990 the Russian establishment has made several attempts to set up a party of power—the Democratic Russia Movement (1990); the Party of Russian Unity and Harmony—PRES (1993); the Russia’s Democratic Choice Party (1994); Russia is Our Home (1995)—each of these structures being genetically tied to its predecessor which served its basis. The Russia is Our Home Party was based on the pro-governmental movements Russia’s Democratic Choice and PRES.
Success came in December 2001 in the form of the all-Russia political party “Unity and Fatherland—United Russia,” which in 2005 acquired a new name—the All-Russia Political Party United Russia (UR) rooted in the election blocs “Unity” and “Fatherland—All Russia” which were set up for the 1999 Duma elections to support the course being steered by Acting President Vladimir Putin.
It was thanks to the nationwide popularity of President Putin, who, in turn, supported the new party at the 2003 and 2007 elections and to the much stronger position of the government in Russia (the elites consolidated around the president, who built up the vertical of power) that United Russia won the constitutional majority in the State Duma during both elections to become the strongest political party in the Russian Federation’s history. It left two other old-timers of the RF Federal Assembly (the Communist Party of the RF and the Liberal-Democratic Party) far behind.
In Kazakhstan, likewise, the phenomenon of the “party of power” goes back to the 1990s: a public-political movement, the People’s Unity of Kazakhstan Alliance (PUKA), set up in 1993 from above and supported by President Nazarbaev was transformed two years later into a party of the same name. It, in turn, served one of the cornerstones of Otan, the party of power set up in 1999.
This was the most important and system-forming restructuring of the pro-presidential forces undertaken to prevent scattering of the pro-presidential votes that might leave these disunited parties outside the 7 percent barrier. To avoid this the Republican Public Staff set up to support Nursultan Nazarbaev as presidential candidate served as the basis for the Otan Party (which also included PUKA, the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, the Liberal Movement of Kazakhstan and the For Kazakhstan-2030 Movement).
Otan, which from the very beginning enjoyed organizational, material, personnel, intellectual, information, and other resources as well as the support of President Nazarbaev, who previously kept an……………..