An event unprecedented for Central Asia happened in Kazakhstan. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who held the post for three decades, peacefully and without bloodshed, handed over power to the speaker of the upper house of parliament, Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev. The permanent leader of Kazakhstan resigned and did not wait for the next elections, which surprised many colleagues and partners. What will happen to Kazakhstan now and how will the resignation of Nazarbayev affect the situation in the country and the region?
In fact, the resignation of March 19 came as a surprise only to those who did not closely follow the events in Kazakhstan. Those who were aware of what was happening in the Central Asian republic knew that the country was preparing for the transition of power. Kazakhstan had long begun the process of transition from a super-presidential model of government to parliamentarism, and Nursultan Nazarbayev himself recently turned to the Constitutional Council for an explanation of the process of voluntary resignation. Therefore, the resignation was expected and even largely natural.
Nursultan Nazarbayev was the last serving head of state [in the region] who took office in the era of the Soviet Union. During his presidency, he did the maximum for the republic, and if the world had a universal system for evaluating the effectiveness of the work of the heads of state, the First President of Kazakhstan, according to it, no doubt would receive 100%.
During Nazarbayev’s presidency, a new statehood has been formed, a market economy has been built, all the institutions of society have been modernized, the incomes of the population have increased 9 times, the poverty level has been reduced 10 times, strategic development programs have been launched, and the balance of relations between Kazakhstan and polar interests has been maintained with Russia and the United States, in general, and raised the status of the republic in the international arena.
From the 1990s, a country with an explosive multinational composition, with an industry of exceptional union subordination that ceased to function fully in the those years, with an enormous burden of social and economic problems and an unresolved question of boundaries, came out without civil strife, war and bloodshed. Kazakhstan has become a successful, economically prosperous state. Taking the principle of “first economy, then politics” as a basis, Nursultan Nazarbayev privatized and opened the country’s doors to big capital. What came of this can now be seen firsthand: Kazakhstan confidently occupies a leading position in various international development ratings, economic attractiveness and investor protection.
It may take a long time to list all the merits of the First President of Kazakhstan. The material was enough for a multi-volume work. He really did a lot for the country, the region and, certainly for the whole world. Nazarbayev showed a unique example of integrity and sanity. Kazakhstan abandoned nuclear weapons at a time when everyone was desperately trying to get them. The country could make good money on this arsenal, but at the same time it would endanger both its own fate and the fate of the world. But Nursultan Nazarbayev did not do that. He proved to the world that authority can be earned without saber-rattling.
So why did Nazarbayev leave? Now they are saying a lot about his age, and allegedly this could be the reason for his resignation. Yes, the First President of Kazakhstan is 78 years old. But he is in good shape! And he resigned not because of the physiological decline. This is evident from the fact that he is not entirely departing from the political scene.
Nazarbayev acted in his own manner, wisely and far-sighted. Understanding that the unresolved issue of transit of power creates a dangerous uncertainty in society, and causes fears for foreign partners and foreign investors; he decided to prematurely resign and give way to a younger generation of politicians. He decided to do what only truly bold politicians do.
By resigning ahead of schedule, Nursultan Nazarbayev realized the country’s main political risk. And he did it gently and without shocks. The country without stumbling and shock went through a stage of constitutional transfer of power and entered a new historical era. And those who say that the situation in Kazakhstan is now even less predictable than it was before are greatly mistaken.
There will be no serious shocks in Kazakhstan after the resignation of the First President. Firstly, because the new President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev will fully adhere to the course of his predecessor. This he confirmed during the oath ceremony. This means that the republic’s external and internal course will remain unchanged. All the main institutions of power of Kazakhstan will operate in accordance with the previous guidelines and principles.
Secondly, the President in Kazakhstan has recently been not the only one who is fully responsible for the decisions taken in the country. Since 2017, the republic has launched a democratic process of transition from a super-presidential to a presidential-parliamentary form of government. The first stage of the redistribution of responsibility from the President to the Government and Parliament has already happened. Ministers and lawmakers received about 40 different kinds of powers, which previously only the President was vested with.
And thirdly, Nursultan Nazarbayev does not leave politics at all. He remains as chairman of the Security Council with wide powers, as head of the ruling party and as the Leader of the Nation. He remains an authoritative politician who, even after his retirement from the post of President of the country, can influence her fate.
This is clearly the best possible scenario. /// nCa, 15 April 2019