The constitution permits the formation of registered political parties, but in practice it is difficult to get the necessary legal permissions. Most parties are small, ephemeral, based on personalities, and lack detailed programs. Nine parties and groups participated in the party list part of the October 1999 lower-chamber legislative races, and four passed a 7% vote hurdle to win seats (the Republican People's Party withdrew from the party list vote after its leader, Akezhen Kazhegeldin, was not registered as a candidate). The nine were Otan (Fatherland), Azamat (Citizen), Alash (Patriot), the People's Congress, the Civic Party, the Communist Party, the Agrarian Party, the Labor Party, and the Revival Party. The pro-government Otan party bloc won the most seats in the party vote. Others included the Civic Party, Agrarian Party, and the Communist Party (KPK). Otan was formed in early 1999 from several prominent pro-Nazarbayev parties. The Civic Party, formed in 1998, represents state-industrial interests and hails Nazarbayev as its "spiritual father." Azamat was formed in 1999. Deputy Chair of the party Petr Svoik has called it the "constructive opposition." The Kazakh Communist Party (KPK), reregistered in July 1994, has advocated some economic re-centralization and anti-Western policies. The People's Congress, or Social-Democratic Party, has both Kazakh and Russian members and is headed by the Kazakh poet Olzhas Suleymenov. Originally pro-Nazarbayev, the party became increasingly critical of the government after 1993. The nationalist Alash Party has refused to register because of legal requirements that it submit personal information about members to the government. Members of unregistered parties may run for elected office as individuals, but not as party members.
In Uralsk (Western Kazakhstan) and Petropavlovsk (Northern Kazakhstan) there are Cossack obshchinas, or communities, agitating for autonomous status. Denied registry by Kazakhstan, many are active in Cossack obshchinas across the border in Russia, where Cossacks have the right to maintain military organizations and carry weapons.