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Nazarbayev’s re-election seen as sign of Kazakhstan's stability

19 March 2015 [15:40] - TODAY.AZ

/By AzerNews/

By Sara Rajabova

Kazakhstan is preparing for its next snap presidential elections after public organizations and citizens judged they would help prevent the country from falling victim to the global financial slowdown.

Though nearly 30 candidates were nominated for the early presidential elections, they have little chance, even no chance at all to overcome the country’s first and incumbent leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who enjoys great popular support.

Nazarbayev has ruled the country for nearly 25 years. Kazakhstan’s Central Election Commission registered the incumbent president, who is also a member of the ruling Nur Otan Party, as a presidential candidate in the next early election.

During the last presidential elections in 2011, President Nazarbayev gained a landslide victory with nearly 96 percent of the votes and since then, the citizens of Kazakhstan have continued to support him.

Nazarbayev’s popularity and therefore his chances to be reelected, have raised some questions as to why if this person is so popular among the population and has no real political rival would he need then to have snap elections.

Here are some of the reasons which have made Nazarbayev so popular in the country.

Kazakhstan’s experienced leader proved himself a capable ruler and he has long been associated as a sign of stability in the country. Therefore, most people see a change of leadership as undesirable and even dangerous, especially since so many countries across the globe have experienced so much political instability.

“By holding an election this April, Nazarbayev sends a message that he will be in office until 2020, if health permits, so those with political ambitions for the future will have to wait,” Bruce Pannier, an expert on Central Asia and senior correspondent at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty told AzerNews.

He believes another option for running the next presidential elections would be a fear of repetition of Ukraine events in Kazakhstan, where Russians make up a quarter of the population.

“There has been speculation that Russia might wish to see a repetition of recent events in eastern Ukraine take place in areas of northern Kazakhstan,” Pannier said.

He went on to say that Nazarbayev has confirmed himself a skilful leader who managed to keep a balanced policy in relations with Russia and China, which contributed to maintain stability in Kazakhstan.

“Nazarbayev, as Kazakhstan’s president, has seen three Russian presidents and four Chinese leaders. Nazarbayev has proven capable of dealing with these leaders of Kazakhstan’s giant neighbors for nearly 25 years so his re-election will be seen by some, at least, as a sign of stability for the country,” Pannier said.

He stressed that Kazakhstan’s people have seen what is happening in Ukraine, what happened in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 and what is happening in the Middle East where dozens of Kazakh nationals have travelled to join militant groups, most notably the Islamic State militant group.

“So I think for the vast majority of Kazakhstan’ people, Nazarbayev’s re-election will be a welcome event,” Pannier said.

Furthermore, the snap election in Kazakhstan is also regarded as a step to cope with the economic difficulties that is expected to severe in the future.

The move is expected to prevent a possible crisis and pave the way for further economic growth in the country.

Although many in Kazakhstan believe that early presidential elections can help the government to implement effectively the country’s anti-crisis program and save money, some say it will hardly have a significant contribution to Kazakhstan.

“I think Nazarbayev sees some challenging years coming. Kazakhstan’s economy has a significant dependence on oil revenues and we know the price of oil is down and is unlikely to increase much, possibly for several years,” Pannier said, noting that the snap elections unlikely to have enormous effect in Kazakhstan.

“This will be the fourth early presidential election Kazakhstan has conducted (1999, 2005, 2011 and this one) so people there are accustomed to it already,” Pannier said.

Central Asia’s biggest economy is currently experiencing a great economic hardship due to the dramatic fall in global oil prices. The sharp drop in oil prices recorded since mid-2014 complicated the economic situation in Kazakhstan, which is heavily dependent on oil revenues. Moreover, Kazakhstan was significantly affected by Russia's economic slump.

“So Kazakhstan will probably have some hard economic times coming, certainly in comparison with the very good economic years Kazakhstan has enjoyed for the last decade. Better to have the election now than next year when the realities of a harder economic situation become more noticeable,” Pannier concluded.


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