Why early Presidential elections in Kazakhstan?
By Sariday Mamdova
Early presidential elections are going to be held in Kazakhstan at the end of April. The lower as well as Upper House of Kazakhstan Parliament decided to hold elections a year before the term ends. The majority of the population supported this initiative.
Kazakhstan is the largest country in the Central Asian region. According to Bloomberg Economists’ assessment it is ranked 11th place, this country is one of the twenty fastest growing economies in the emerging markets in 2015. But today, Kazakhstan, like most other states, is experiencing a serious pressure on the economy.
On the one hand, this is due to the ongoing worldwide crisis. As an exporting country of oil and metals Kazakhstan suffer serious losses from the fall of their value in the market.
On the other hand, the deterioration of the economic situation in the country is due to the “Russian factor” as the two economies are highly integrated economically. Sanctions against Moscow and the slowdown of the Russian economy significantly inhibit the development of Kazakhstan. But in contrast to Minsk, Astana will not even admit the thought of the possibility of leaving the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC). “Russia is in difficult condition, but we are together with Russia – said recently the president of Kazakhstan.
“And I’m sure, and we, Kazakhs, believe that Russia will overcome difficult situation with honor, will continue to develop and prosper, and so do we”, added Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev while commenting on Kazakh-Russian relations.
Today, the national currency of the Kazakhstan is the only one that didn’t depreciate from all the currencies of the post-Soviet countries. In general, Kazakhstan proves its “regional leader” status in these difficult times.
However, negative factors forced the authorities to revise short-term economic strategies and turn on “save mode.” This directly affects pace of GDP growth and welfare of the citizens. The country has developed a special anti-crisis program “Nurly Zhol”, which should neutralize the economic risks and prevent the growth of unemployment.
There is also geopolitical pressure of non-economic factors that influences the situation in the country. The withdrawal of the antiterrorist coalition forces from Afghanistan increases the risk of cross-flow into the country extremist-minded elements from the conflict zones in Asia, including Afghanistan, Syria, the territory controlled by the Islam State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). This can cause an internal crisis – the emergence of internal radical elements. It could get worse and increase drug trafficking from Afghanistan.
In fact, today Kazakhstan is considered as a buffer zone, which can be a barrier to traffic from Afghanistan as for drugs and extremists too. And stability, which is now provided within the country: both political and social, play an important role.
A huge role in ensuring the stability within the country and outside is associated with President of Kazakhstan – Nursultan Nazarbayev. He has been ruling the country democratically for over 20 years and always gained overwhelming number of votes in previous elections. Observers from various international organizations, primarily from the OSCE, though stated on a number of violations of the election, but never challenged the correctness of the votes counting.
There are several factors behind such strong public confidence in the current President.
First of all, Nazarbayevs policies ensure unity and harmony in the country. Kazakhstan is the only state in the former Soviet Union to escape the ethnic conflicts after the collapse of the USSR, despite the fact that the country is home to more than 140 different nationalities and more than a dozen confessions.
Astana has created a unique platform for dialogue – the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan. Its representatives are the heads of the national-cultural centres of all nationalities living in the country.
In addition, the population approves the current government’s economic policy. The living standard of the population of Kazakhstan is among the middle-income countries. At the same time, according to the UN, Kazakhstan is among the group of countries with high human development index. The country’s economy is on a constant rise, despite the temporary difficulties caused by the global cataclysm.
Opinion polls show that the vast majority of the population approves president’s strategy.
The so-called opposition in Kazakhstan is underdeveloped. Most of it, though, and opposes the current government, but in the vast majority prefers to maintain realizable/balanced course. Moreover, their leaders, who today could qualify for the presidential powers, openly declare that currently see no alternative to Nazarbayev.
In addition, they do not have a trust from citizens – their populist slogans do not offer a strategic vision for the development of the country. In addition, the opposition is trying to oppose the government, playing a national issue, or anti-Russian sentiment. Population associates them not with big politics but attempts to destroy peace in the country and in Kazakhstan there is a serious fear of a repetition of the scenario of color revolutions similar to the Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia.
Actually, the electorate made ideologue of the early presidential elections this year. Several thousand citizens of Kazakhstan appealed to their members in the ANC initiate elections in the near future.
There are two reasons. One, as indicated above, is the difficult economic period, and geopolitical risks. Another is legal – the probability of coincidence of presidential and parliamentary elections next year (which is prohibited by the Constitution).
In mid-February, the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan presented the wishes of citizens. It should be noted that the population didn’t express any doubts towards the only worthy candidate when referring to the ANC with a request.
One of the reason of early elections is that the year 2016 is also the year of Parliamentary elections of Kazakhstan therefore holding two elections is usually create uncertain political scenario and Kazakh leadership considers that the world is not stable and the ongoing global financial and economic crisis will further hit the world economy in 2016. Economic experts in Astana believe that peak of the global financial crisis is expected in 2016, when all the resources and all the potential have to be used to solve economical jolts therefore two political campaigns will simply distract situation in Kazakhstan.
Early elections idea was supported by the parliament too. The deputies have appealed to Nazarbayev to set a date for elections. Two weeks later, Nazarbayev got back with date that is April 26.
At the moment the ruling party has intended to have candidate. There is no doubt; the party will nominate Nursultan Nazarbayev for sure.
Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan also has announced plans to participate in the election race. However, its leader frankly admitted that Party does not expect to win, because “today there is no alternative to Nazarbayev”.
Thus, even today there is no doubt that in the early presidential elections in Kazakhstan, 75-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev will again.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.