By Radwan Jakeem
NEW YORK (IDN) – The Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan is living through an historical transition. For the first time since the country adopted the Constitutional Law on the independence of the Republic and held the first presidential election in 1991, Nursultan Nazarbayev is not contesting the forthcoming polls on June 9, 2019.
He was elected for a fifth term in the 2015 elections and was entitled to hold the office of the President until 2020. But he stunned the nation March 19, announcing during a nationally televised address that he would be relinquishing the office he had held for nearly three decades.
“As the founder of the independent Kazakh state, I see my future task in ensuring the coming to power of a new generation of leaders who will continue the ongoing reforms,” the 78-year old leader said in what he called a “special” address that was delivered in both the Kazakh and Russian languages.
“The issue of succession of power in Kazakhstan is resolved in the Constitution,” Nazarbayev said. “In case the current President relinquishes the duties, his duties are transferred to the Chairman of the Senate until the end of the current term. Then, the election of a new President is held.”
Nazarbayev went on to sign what he called his last decree as President of Kazakhstan, relinquishing his duties beginning the next day, March 20, and fixing the time for the taking of office for the Chairman of the Senate, Kasym-Jomart Tokayev, as noon March 20 at the joint session of Parliament.
Tokayev (65), who was expected to hold the office of the President for the remainder of President Nazarbayev’s 2015–2020 term however announced on April 9 early presidential elections on June 9 to pre-empt “political uncertainty”.
In a broadcast on all national television channels, Tokayev said: “Kazakhstan took a worthy place in the international community… We are living through an historical transition… Following my trips around the country… my conclusion is we are moving in the right direction.”
He added: “That is why I firmly believe the early election of the head of state is absolutely necessary. In order to ensure social and political harmony, firmly move forward, keep on solving the tasks of social and economic development, there is a need to remove any uncertainty.”
Besides, Tokayev who is well-versed in both national and international affairs, argued that the situation in the world is changing fast, it was necessary therefore to “reconfirm the continuity, predictability and stability of our domestic and foreign policy”.
He added: “We need to continue to work on the effective and successful realisation of the social programmes and the strategy of Elbasy,” Tokayev said, referring to former President Nazarbayev who carries the title of the First, that is, the Leader of the Nation.
All that can be done through the direct expression of the will of the people through an election, Tokayev went on to say. “Kazakhstan is a democratic state. And the President will be elected according to the will of the people. As the current head of state, I guarantee that the election will be held in a fair and transparent way. This is my principled position.”
According to the Constitution of Kazakhstan, the President of the Republic is elected by adult citizens of the Republic on the basis of universal, equal and direct election by a secret ballot for a term of five years.
Tokayev announced early presidential election not only after consulting with ‘Elbasy’ Nazarbayev but also with the Speaker of the Senate (Upper House) of the bicameral Parliament, Dariga Nazarbayeva; Vice Speaker of the Mazhilis (Lower House) of the Parliament, Vladimir Bozhko; Prime Minister Askar Mamin; Chairman of the Constitutional Council, Kairat Mami; as well as heads of the political parties such as the dominant Nur Otan (Radiant Fatherland), Ak Zhol Democratic Party, the Communist People’s Party and the Kazakhstani Social Democratic Party Auyl.
On April 9, the Akorda presidential office announced that Tokayev had signed a decree requesting the Central Election Commission to organise the election and asking akims (governors and mayors) to ensure the timely compilation and veracity of voter lists and to provide comprehensive assistance to the central, territorial and district election commissions in the interest of the smooth election.
Every citizen of the country by birth who is at least forty years old, fluent in the state language, has lived in Kazakhstan for the last fifteen years and has a higher education, is eligible to be elected President of Kazakhstan.
The Central Election Commission registers presidential candidates. Registration begins two months before Election Day and ends forty days before election.
According to the legislation of Kazakhstan, candidates for the President can be nominated only by political parties and nation-wide public associations and must be supported by at least one per cent of the total number of registered voters, equally representing at least two thirds of regions, cities of national significance and the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Seven candidates are meanwhile registered with the Central Election Commission: Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, incumbent President of Kazakhstan representing the dominant party Nur Otan; and Sadybek Tugel of Uly Dala Kyrandary (Great Steppe Eagles) Republican Movement, First Vice President of the Association of National Sports of Kazakhstan and President of the Equestrian Federation of Kazakhstan.
There is also a woman candidate: Dania Yespayeva of Ak Zhol, Member of the Lower House of Parliament, is the first and only woman to contest the President’s office.
Four other candidates registered with the Election Commission are: Toleutai Rakhimbekov of Auyl, Chairman of the Board of the National Agrarian Scientific and Educational Center; Amandeldy Taspikhov of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan and Chairman of the Territorial Association of Trade Unions of West Kazakhstan Region; journalist Amirjan Kosanov of Ult Tagdyry; and Jambyl Akhmetbekov of the Communist People’s Party, Member of the Mazhilis.
The new President elected on June 9 will be faced with momentous tasks at home and abroad: to build on the political legacy of Nazarbayev who, in his capacity as the Leader of the Nation, should be in a position to mentor and guide for realising “Kazakhstan’s Concept Vision on Sustaining Global Partnership for Secure, Just and Prosperous World” spelt out at the Security Council during Kazakhstan’s non-permanent membership in 2017-2018. [IDN-InDepthNews – 15 May 2019]
Photo: Seven presidential candidates (clockwise): Sadybek Tugel, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Amirzhan Kosanov, Toleutai Rakhimbekov, Amangeldy Taspikhov, Daniya Yespayeva and Zhambyl Akhmetbekov.
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
facebook.com/IDN.GoingDeeper – twitter.com/InDepthNews