On March 19, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation in a special address to the nation. He had been the president of the country since April 1990.
Senate Speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who had previously occupied various government and diplomatic posts, will perform presidential duties. In accordance with the Kazakh constitution, he will be in fact a president of Kazakhstan until a new president is elected in the spring of 2020. The key factor limiting his power is that he cannot suggest changes to the country’s constitution.
On March 20, Dariga Nazarbayeva became a new Speaker of the Senate. She’s 55yo and has been participating in the political and business life of the country since it gained independence. In 2003, she created own pro-government party “Asar”, which later joined the ruling party “Nur Otan”.
Despite a formal resignation from the presidential post, Nursultan Nazarbayev still has an official status of the “nation leader” [as the first president of independent Kazakhstan] and heads “Nur Otan”. He’s also a member of the Constitutional Council and the head of the Security Council of Kazakhstan. This particular post he can occupy for the life term.
Another signal demonstrating the real influence of the former Kazakh president is the decision to rename the Kazakh capital of Astana to Nusrultan. This was the first decision made by Tokaev after he got his new post.
In fact, we can observe a ‘controlled’ transfer of power to those, whom Nazarbaev described in his speech as a ‘new generation’ of politicians. Regarding Nazarbaev’s ‘successor’, media outlets and experts name two main candidates: Dariga Nazarbaeva and Deputy Head of the Security Council of Kazakhstan Samat Abish, Nazarbayev’s nephew.
It appears that the Kazakh leadership sees the controlled transfer of power as a tool to keep the stability in the country. Kazakhstan is the most successful economy of the Central Asia. It has a successful industrial economy and the highest living standards in the region.
The country faces several challenges related to a complicated situation in the region in general.
Regarding the internal situation, it should be noted that during the past 2 years, Kazakh authorities passed several laws, which in fact infringed upon the rights of the Russian-speaking population [19.78% of the entire population]. In 2018, there also was a foreign-inspired media campaign to instigate an ethnic discord within the country.
On the regional level, the US increased its activity in neighboring Uzbekistan, which is being considered by experts as a possible point of the instability in the region. The spread of radical ideologies of both Taliban and ISIS propaganda from Afghanistan in Uzbekistan as well as in Tajiksitan also should be noted. The area on the border between Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan has been repeatedly mentioned in the light of the growing concentration of forces of ISIS and other armed groups there.
In the positive scenario, Kazakhstan will be finish the transit of power in 2020 without notable convulsions and the country will keep its regional and economic positions, remaining the most successful Central Asian state.
However, if Kazakh power groups engage each others in a large conflict for resources and the soft transfer of power is undermined, the country may face itself under threat of becoming a new point of instability in the region.
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