Recently, the interim president of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, called for quick elections to help transition the country into having a new, democratically elected leader. However, the question of whether or not the first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, will continue to have a controlling influence on the politics of the country is in contention. While Nazarbayev had voluntarily stepped down from his position, he is still an incredibly large and important political figure in Kazakhstan, with many analysts believing that whoever will be elected as the new president would be beholden to Nazarbayev’s will. Because of this, I believe that even though the claim of democratic elections is being made, that this is not a true indication of a shift in power in the country, and, if anything, these elections are just hiding a strong authoritarian rule of the country.
Over the past thirty years, Nazarbayev has been the ruler of Kazakhstan, and made plenty of policy decisions. And while he has stepped down from this role, he has stated that he will become the chairman of the country’s security council, an institution that he created recently before his abdication, and would remain the head of the majority party in Kazakhstan. In this role, he would maintain watch over the next president as well as influence policy decisions made.
Since the Nazarbayev’s abdication, many protestors around the country have been calling the planned elections a farce, stating that as long as Nazarbayev is in a position of power, nothing will have changed. As an example of this, after his abdication, Tokayev changed the name of the capital city to Nursultan. This obviously did not go over well with the public, and protests started up throughout the city, yelling that Nazarbayev is just a dictator attempting to maintain power over the country.
As stated earlier, it is my belief that the elections in Kazakhstan do not indicate a shift towards a more democratic state, and instead a sly way of continuance of authoritarian power in the country.