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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 29,749 24,205 22,400 60
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,780 1,510 1,350 119
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Kazakstan


Update No: 361 - (28/01/11)

Nazarbayev in the ascendant
Nursultan Nazarbayev has delivered relative prosperity to his Central Asian nation since he was elected president of an independent Kazakhstan in 1991.He had the massive advantages of course of a country with monumental resources (60% of the former Soviet Union’s mineral resources) but with a modest population despite its vast size.

Annual economic growth averaged nearly 10% in the 2001-2007 period until the global crisis, with a swift recovery now afoot. Nazarbayev has rightly been credited with ensuring the country's stability during this time.

But he is also perceived to have concentrated power in his hands and those of his family; to have suppressed the opposition; and to have failed to deliver elections deemed free and fair.

He raised eyebrows in 2007 with a package of reforms he said would move Kazakhstan towards a democratic, free and lawful society.

While the changes gave parliament more powers, including that of overcoming the presidential veto, the limit on the number of terms a president can stand was removed. Given Nazarbayev’s vast powers of patronage, with huge government contracts at his disposal, the parliament is virtually his rubber-stamp anyway. It is sure to do his bidding.

The parliament passed a resolution in early January effectively making Nazarbayev president for life but suspending parliamentary elections until 2020, when he would be 80. He vetoed it immediately, showing to the Western world that he is no dictator. But parliament overrode his veto. He gets the best of both worlds.

He is credited with being an autocrat certainly, but one moving towards democracy (of which there is little evidence), while in fact cunningly consolidating his power. Come 2020, even despite him being an octogenarian, his presidency would almost certainly be renewed by parliamentary approbation. Moreover, in event of death he has a successor groomed, his own daughter, Dariga. She is a character in her own right, as is Gunera Karimov of Uzbekistan next door, eldest daughter of Islam Karimov, the last great Soviet survivor of Central Asia and his anointed successor.

There is no doubt that Nazarbayev is a far more astute man than Karimov. The one is adept at international as well as national politics, which saw Kazakhstan assume the chairmanship of the OSCE in the first half of 2010, inconceivable for Uzbekistan. The other is a brutal thug, ruling a totalitarian state, exposed as such by Craig Murray, UK ambassador to Tashkent in 2002-04. (See Ubekistan Feb 2011). However, Nazarbayev does not have a blameless past. Both he and Karimov owe their positions to the fact that were both Moscow’s ‘viceroy’ until 1991 and holding power, never let go.

The heir apparent?
Dariga has inherited her father's brains and gifts and more. She is a far more cosmopolitan figure. Besides her native Kazakh, Dariga is fluent in English, Russian, Italian and has some understanding of German. She is an avid amateur opera singer. In spite of the lack of formal vocal training Dariga often performs opera arias at various concerts and events.

She has courage too. While many analysts believe President Nazarbayev is preparing his daughter to succeed him upon his retirement or death, her relationship with her father has deteriorated recently, in part due to the criticism of his administration she sometimes expresses.

If she did succeed him, there is little doubt that there would be a marked shift to the West, not just a cosmetic one, as in her father's case. But this may be some time off.

But there is an opposition
One question is on practically everyone’s lips these days in Kazakhstan’s two main cities, Almaty and Astana: “Will he or won’t he?” They, of course, are thinking about Nursultan Nazarbayev, and whether he will, despite his own veto of a parliamentary resolution, end up becoming the country’s de-facto president-for-life.

There is vociferous opposition to this among certain young people.

Wearing placards with the slogan "Gravediggers of Democracy?", activists with the Rukh pen Til (Spirituality and Language) movement protested outside the headquarters of the ruling Nur Otan party on Jan. 11 against a bid to extend President Nursultan Nazarbayev's rule in a parliamentary resolution. Although Nazarbayev has vetoed the resolution, it is expected parliament with override his veto, which could keep him in power until 2020 – or beyond.

But frankly with or without such a resolution, there are no challengers to his position, they have tended to have ‘accidents.’ He will have all the power he needs as long as he wants to remain at the top of his country. 

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