Why are elections taking place now?
In its 23 years as an independent country, Kazakhstan has achieved a great deal. Its economy has experienced strong growth, its society is seen as a model of stability and tolerance and Kazakhstan is a respected international partner.
But the global outlook has rarely been more challenging. The world economy is still in trouble, oil prices have fallen sharply, tensions between east and west have increased - and extremism is on the rise.
It is against this difficult background that the presidential election has been brought forward a year. The aim is to provide Kazakhstan with clear and decisive leadership and a strong national mandate to guide the country through these difficulties and deliver further economic, social and political progress. Kazakhstan is determined that the elections will be open, transparent and fair and have invited independent international observers to monitor the entire process.
Achievements over the past 23 years
Kazakhstan has been Central Asia’s success story. It has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies, a harmonious and stable society and a country which is seen as a good neighbour and respected international partner. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan was left with out-dated industries, poor public services and a population made up of many different ethnic and religious groups. In just over two decades Kazakhstan has preserved its interethnic harmony and become a successful, stable and ambitious country.
- GDP has increased 16 fold since 1991
- Kazakhstan has joined the ranks of the world’s top 50 economies
- The country has attracted over $200 billion in foreign direct investment
- Unemployment has more than halved from a peak of 13.5 per cent in 1999
- The standard of living has tripled over the same period
- Welfare spending has increased
- More than 100 different ethnic groups live in harmony with each other
- Followers of 17 faiths have freedom to practice their religion
- Kazakhstan has made steady progress in decentralising power to the regions and in promoting human rights
- Kazakhstan has good relations with Russia and the USA, as well as China, Europe and other countries across the world
- The country has been working to promote peace across the world, including through facilitating dialogue over Ukraine, promoting development and security in Afghanistan, voluntarily renouncing the world’s fourth biggest nuclear arsenal and encouraging others to do the same
- Build on the good relations with its neighbours and the international community.
- Join the world’s most successful 30 countries by 2050 by modernising and diversifying its economy.
- Build an official development assistance capacity to increase the role Kazakhstan can play in social, economic and humanitarian support in its region and the world.
- Seek to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 2017-18
- Seek to host the XXIV Olympic Winter Games in Almaty in 2022
Current challenges facing Kazakhstan and the region
Recent external factors have affected the country and the region. These include:
- The fall in the global price of oil, which has caused a reduction in revenues
- The continuing global financial crisis
- Difficulties in the Eurozone
Confidence in the global economy has also been hit by an increase in geo-political threats and tensions. These include:
- The crisis in Ukraine and the resulting tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia, as well as major challenges in relations between them generally
- The fall in the Russian rouble
- Rise in violent extremism in the Middle East, such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq
- Uncertainty over Afghanistan
Despite these challenges, it is worth remembering that Kazakhstan has a good track record of emerging from past crisis, including:
- The Asian financial crisis of 1998-1999. The National Fund was set up as a long-term home for excess revenues from its extractive industries in 2000, measures were put in place to strengthen the country’s financial system and build up its national gold and currency reserves (at more than $100 billion now).
- The global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. Steps already put in place protected against global challenges. Sustained growth returned quickly to Kazakhstan’s economy. It has demonstrated the vital importance of clear and decisive leadership.
Improvement in the rule of law and election legislation
Kazakhstan is determined that the presidential election will be open, transparent and fair. To achieve this, the country has:
- Clearly set out how the election is conducted and the requirements needed to stand as a presidential candidate
- Invited international observers from the OSCE/ODIHR and other international organisations to monitor the campaign
Reforms for a democratic path
- Kazakhstan’s Constitution clearly sets out the rights and freedoms to be enjoyed by all citizens.
- Development Strategy Kazakhstan 2050 puts human capital development and human rights at the centre of the country’s long term ambitions.
- The country has signed and ratified the most important human rights conventions, including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last month.
- An Ombudsman’s Office on the Rights of the Child is being created.
- An interdepartmental commission, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been set up to ensure government actions are in line with UN human rights mechanisms.
Rule of law reforms
- Kazakhstan has put in place new measures, under the Legal Reform Strategy 2010-2020, to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and the legal framework.
- Actions are taken to ensure Kazakhstan’s police and security services serve its citizens fairly.
- Rooting out corruption in all areas of the national life has been made a priority.
- A new body called the “Dialogue Platform on the Human Dimension" has been created to draw up recommendation from the civil society to develop democracy, protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law. Since 2013, over half its recommendations have already been followed up by government agencies and the Parliament.
Undoubtedly there is still more to do to bring the country up to the highest international standards. However it is worth noting that Kazakhstan does not have the long democratic tradition of many countries. The country has only been an independent nation for 23 years and inherited a political system and culture in which democracy and human rights were alien.
Ambitions and plans for the future
To improve the strength of its economy and society and the living standards of its citizens, Kazakhstan plans to:
- Implement the Nurly Zhol – Path to the Future programme by accelerating investment in the modernisation of Kazakhstan’s national infrastructure and diversification of its economy, Investment will be increased in education from new kindergartens to expanding university places as well as improving health provision.
- Implement President Nazarbayev’s institutional reforms necessary to ensure Kazakhstan achieves its ambitious goals. They include the creation of a modern and professional civil service, improving the accountability of the state to its citizens and the further strengthening of the rule of law. To help the economy, he also called for better protection for property rights and increased support for entrepreneurs and small and medium sized businesses.
- Continue growing the country’s middle class.