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KAZAKSTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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)

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Update No: 362 - (26/02/11)

The fall-out of the Nile Revolution
The events in the Middle East are having repercussions right across Eurasia. This is especially true of Islamic Central Asia.

One can be certain that the present president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, long-time communist crony though he may be, is well aware of his vulnerability to popular discontent.

However, he is in a much stronger position than Mubarak of Egypt was, He is even quite popular, although he would never put that to dispute at a truly open election.

The April agenda
Nazarbayev is keen on re-election soon. The date for Kazakhstan’s snap presidential election has suddenly been re-set for April 3 after amendments to the constitution and electoral law were rushed through parliament. It would appear on the face of it under pressure from events in the Middle East.

Incumbent leader Nazarbayev, who on January 31 proposed pushing the presidential vote forward by nearly two years, has yet to confirm that he will run. But of course he will.

The snap election is the result of a referendum campaign, launched in December that would have extended Nazarbayev’s term to 2020. Prior to rejecting the referendum idea and embracing an early election, the septuagenarian president said that he “understood the signal of the people – not to leave my post, to continue working.”

It was widely considered a formality that the pro-presidential Nur Otan Party would re-nominate Nazarbayev during a February 11 congress. Analysts also consider it a foregone conclusion that Nazarbayev will win re-election.

The advent of 'dark horses'?
The election campaign may prove more intriguing than the vote’s outcome, some observers suggest. “It will be interesting if, in the current election campaign, they start to run some ‘dark horses’ from among whom some so-called [potential] successors could emerge,” Almaty-based analyst Dosym Satpayev told the Svoboda Slova newspaper in an interview published February 3.

Nazarbayev has already been in office for two decades and shows no public sign of grooming a successor in the hopes of ensuring a smooth transition of power. The early election could be a move in that direction, Satpayev noted. “If this year Nazarbayev finally starts putting in place a blueprint for the succession of power, then this campaign will be justified, but if it again proceeds as a spectacle, then it will be another waste of time and money,” he said.

So far, three little-known challengers, described by pundits as stalking horses, have submitted formal applications to run for the presidency: The three contenders are: Musagali Duambekov, the leader of the For a Green Planet movement; entrepreneur Salim Oten; and Senator Ualikhan Kaysarov.

The most prominent opposition candidate likely to run is a co-leader of the OSDP Azat Party, Bolat Abilov. Two other candidates – Zhasaral Kuanyshalin, leader of the Zhasa, Azattyk! (Long Live Freedom!) movement, and environmentalist Mels Eleusizov – have also expressed an intention to run.

The opposition Communist Party of Kazakhstan, the voice of the past, is boycotting the vote.

Another opposition leader, the Ak Zhol Party’s Alikhan Baymenov, perhaps the voice of the future, has said he will not run due to the compressed timeframe for campaigning.
Kozlov out-footed.

One virulent critic of the president, the leader of the unregistered Alga! DVK party, Vladimir Kozlov, has backtracked on his intention (announced last year) to mount a presidential bid. Kozlov says he does not have time to prepare for the Kazakh-language test that presidential candidates must pass, an illustration of how the snap election has wrong-footed the opposition. Meanwhile, Kaysarov, the senator and aspiring presidential candidate, failed his language test on February 8, but he is disputing the result.

A predictable outcome
In terms of the election’s outcome, Nazarbayev is widely favoured to win in a landslide. “An early election is no risk to the president,” said Rico Isaacs, a lecturer in International Studies at the UK’s Oxford Brookes University and an expert on Kazakh politics. “He will win, and elements of the state apparatus will ensure that, while there are no strong alternative candidates capable of wresting the presidency from him. Moreover, Nazarbayev continues to have genuine popular and public appeal.”

The Eurasianet view
With the result virtually assured, experts seem most interested in determining why Nazarbayev called an early vote. “It seems likely that Nazarbayev has called an early election so as to capitalize on the momentum of the referendum campaign,” Anna Walker, a Central Asia analyst at London-based Control Risks consultancy, told EurasiaNet.org, “Having apparently won the support of such a large proportion of the electorate during that [referendum] campaign, bringing the election forward can be seen as a logical step.”

In the face of unusually sharp criticism from the West over the referendum bid, the early election gambit also appears designed to burnish the president’s democratic credentials, Walker added: “Nazarbayev and his allies both avoid the Western (and particularly US) criticism that would have inevitably followed a decision to push forward with the referendum, and can claim to be observing democratic norms by holding an election.”

Kazakhstan has never held a vote judged free and fair by international observers, but set against the background of the abandoned referendum, the snap election helps put more of a shine on Kazakhstan’s democratic veneer, analysts say. “By calling an early election Nazarbayev comes across as the reasoned, pragmatic politician who deep down is committed to democracy in Kazakhstan, albeit a democracy in which he is always guaranteed victory,” Isaacs told EurasiaNet.org.

The OSCE card was well played
Kazakhstani leaders have portrayed the process that began with the referendum drive and culminated with the decision to call an early presidential vote as spontaneous. Many experts question this scenario.

“I'm sceptical that the referendum was genuinely a popular initiative, although the way in which the campaign was pursued might not have panned out in quite the way the authorities intended,” Walker said. “It is possible that they misjudged the level of criticism from the United States, and were concerned at the diplomatic consequences if they went ahead – including the tarnishing of Nazarbayev's reputation as an international statesman.”

In recent months the administration has been painstakingly polishing the president’s image at home. It used Kazakhstan’s 2010 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the country’s hosting of an OSCE summit last December, along with hosting the Asian Winter Games this month, to flood media outlets with positive coverage, portraying the prestigious events as Nazarbayev’s personal achievements.
 

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