Kazakhstan's Political Leadership.Kazakhstan gained its independence on Dec. 16, 1991. Its foreign direct investment (FDI FDI
See: Foreign direct investment ) in 2011 totalled more than $100bn. But the political leadership leaves much to be desired as the country lacks the democracy which its long-ruling President, Nursultan Nazarbayev who on April 3, 2011 was re-elected to another five-year term and got 95.5% of the vote.
The Arab Spring of revolts hit Kazakhstan in late 2011, when oil workers in the western region of Mangistau rioted against the regime and many of them were killed. Already since the spring of 2011, pro-democracy turmoil was shaking the foundations of one-man-rule in Middle East states, but Kazakhstan's long-standing President Nazarbayev did not seem perturbed per·turb
tr.v. per·turbed, per·turb·ing, per·turbs
1. To disturb greatly; make uneasy or anxious.
2. To throw into great confusion.
The only ruler the petroleum-rich nation of 16.7m had known since pre-independence years, President Nazarbayev on April 3, 2011, was re-elected for another five-year term with 95.5% of the votes, out-shining his 2005 record of 91.2%. International observers slammed the election as having "serious irregularities", and some domestic critics denounced it as merely "decorative". But Nazarbayev pointed triumphantly to the massive voter turn-out - as high as 90% in some reports - as proof that Kazakhstan backed him. He told cheering supporters: "Of course this is a sensation for Western countries. In other countries, elections divide the nation into various party blocs, but we are united. While the world sees much blood-shed and ethnic conflict, all of the ethnic and religious groups in Kazakhstan are united as one".
None of Nazarbayev's three nominal opponents received more than 2% of the votes. They included Zhambyl Akhmetbekov, head of a pro-Nazarbayev splinter group from the Kazakh Communist Party, and pro-government Sen Gani Kasymov. Environmentalist environmentalist
a person with an interest and knowledge about the interaction of humans and animals with the environment. Mels Yeleusizov, who picked up 1.2% of the votes, told journalists that he had given his own ballot to Nazarbayev, saying: "He is the winner. It was kind of a sports event. Nazarbayev has won, and I shake his hand".
Students had to go to polling stations on threat of expulsion. Supervisors carefully checked to make sure they had voted. The independent online regional news agency, fergana.ru, published copies of official documents requiring all local authorities to draw up a list of state employees along with evidence they had voted. But some experts argued that for all the stage-managing, the election result probably reflected the present mindset mind·set or mind-set
1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.
2. An inclination or a habit. of most Kazakhs. Murat Laumulin, an expert with the government-funded Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies in Almaty, said: "These results were predictable. People don't want changes. There was no competition because the opposing candidates were not well known. In any case, many of the opposition's past slogans were adopted by the authorities and partially fulfilled... Maybe we'll see real elections in five years' time, when a new generation will go to the polling stations".
Nazarbayev, who ran Kazakhstan as Communist Party chief before moving seamlessly to become the father of an independent nation, has long championed the idea of "Eurasianism", or a combination of autocratic politics and liberal market economics inspired by success stories like China and Singapore. Sergei Strokan, international affairs columnist for the Moscow daily Kommersant, says: "You go to Kazakhstan and you see everywhere the evidence of an oriental personality cult. Billboards have slogans like: 'Nazarbayev is the second sun in our sky'. You might think you're in North Korea or someplace some·place
adv. & n.
Somewhere: "I didn't care where I was from so long as it was someplace else" Garrison Keillor. See Usage Note at everyplace. . But that's not the full story, because Nazarbayev has overseen liberal market reforms, a huge influx of foreign investment, and modernised the place in other ways".
The country's per capita GDP GDP (guanosine diphosphate): see guanine. has soared from around $700 in 1991 to about $8,000 today, giving the highest standard of living in central Asia. But Kazakhstan ranked 105th in the global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International's 2010 annual corruption perceptions list of 178 countries. There have been persistent allegations of high living and bribe-taking in circles of family and supporters around Nazarbayev, some of it detailed in Wikileaks cables. Basic rights such as freedom of speech and assembly are seriously limited.
Yet Nazarbayev has proved to be a staunch friend of the West, providing indispensable aid in operations to resupply re·sup·ply
tr.v. re·sup·plied, re·sup·ply·ing, re·sup·plies
To provide with fresh supplies, as of weapons and ammunition.
re the beleaguered be·lea·guer
tr.v. be·lea·guered, be·lea·guer·ing, be·lea·guers
1. To harass; beset: We are beleaguered by problems.
2. To surround with troops; besiege. NATO forces in Afghanistan and assisting in US-led efforts against nuclear proliferation. In 2010, Kazakhstan even held the chair of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE OSCE Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe
OSCE Organisation Pour la Sécurité et la Coopération en Europe (French: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)
OSCE Objective Structured Clinical Examination ), which was crowned with an extravagant December summit in Astana that included many international accolades to Nazarbayev's leadership.
Nazarbayev has moved to integrate Kazakhstan's economy with that of Russia and Belarus through the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU EEU European Economic Union
EEU Environmental Exposure Unit
EEU Energy Efficiency Utility
EEU Engineering Evaluation Unit
EEU Europa Esperanto Unio
EEU European Esperanto-Union
EEU Eurasian Economic Union
EEU Electronic Equipment Unit ), hoping the Kazakhs will have a much higher standard of living than the Russians by 2025/26 (as the EEU is examined in news6KazPutinEurasiaAug6-12. See also Qatar's competition with Russia for the EU gas market in ood2IrqQtrAug6-12 and various energy export versions being offered to Astana in omt6KazkhExprtAug6-12).
Nazarbayev had got around the Kazakh constitution's two-term presidential limit by holding a 1995 referendum enabling him to seek a fresh term, and then sponsoring a 2007 constitutional amendment which permits him - and no one else - to be re-elected as many times as he wants. Strokan says: "This system seems to work fine as long as Kazakhstan's economy is strong and Nazarbayev remains alive. But its Achilles Heel is the same as so many other dictatorships, in that it is totally focused on one single personality". Nazarbayev is already 72 years old, and he has done nothing to groom a successor or encourage genuine political alternatives. When he leaves, as he must one day, Kazakhstan could face some very traumatic times.