Presidential Elections in Kazakhstan: Tasks for Tomorrow

The early presidential elections in Kazakhstan with Nursultan Nazarbayev winning a convincing victory, was necessitated by a number of fundamental internal and external factors. During the new political period until 2020, Kazakhstan will start working toward the goals of reformatting its economic structure related to the industrial phase of the country’s capitalist development.

National reform

The internal factors are as follows. First, 2015 is the peak of the crisis of the trade stage of Kazakhstan’s (not the world) market (liberal) economy, which began with the launch of liberal economic and political reforms in the 1990s. Second, in Kazakhstan, this process is accompanied by massive migration and demographic shifts (including, on the one hand, the ongoing exodus of peasants from the countryside, and on the other, the emergence of urban agglomerations accommodating the redundant workforce). This process has coincided, third, with the need for a quick transition to a new technological production pattern that prioritizes the services sector over the production and marketing of hydrocarbons.

The external factors include, first of all, various forms of influence from the global economic system, related to global prices of traditional export commodities in Kazakhstan and other EAEU countries, and the availability of credit and investment resources, as well as the impact of economic cycles and crises and their consequences. Second, this includes forms of interstate cooperation and interaction between countries with which Kazakhstan has overlapping economic interests. These are, above all, countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Relations within these organizations and integration associations are not always smooth, and they are also subject to impact by political and geopolitical factors.

Industrial reform

During the new presidential cycle, Kazakhstan will need a harmonious combination of all three of the most important economic factors. First, it should formulate and follow an economic policy for the industrial stage of liberal-market capitalist relations in the national economy (including a protectionist policy toward Russia and Belarus), not simply the implementation of the State Program of Accelerated Industrial Innovative Development. Second, it should complete the creation of infrastructure for the next technological stage (a developed First World state), which was aptly described by President Nazarbayev in his recent address, where the services industry will become a driver (it is necessary to “open the doors” of post-industrial society). Third, it should legalize the interests of the people migrating from the countryside to urban areas, who are demanding economic and social recognition.

Among the priorities of the new government is the release of the people’s economic and social energy through the further liberalization of economic relations (including the development of property rights, the liberalization of the use of mineral resources, providing broader opportunities for small and medium-sized business in processing hydrocarbons, import substitution, etc.) would help create a favorable and highly competitive environment, where small and medium-sized businesses will be treated on the same terms as big business and state corporations.

In its economic policy during the new political period until 2020, Kazakhstan will start working toward the goals of reformatting its economic structure related to the industrial phase of the country’s capitalist development (the second five-year industrialization period, the implementation of the Infrastructure Development Plan in the Republic of Kazakhstan, the creation and development of the national defense industry, and so on). The trade stage of the development of liberal-market capitalist relations is over, and as industry develops and as industrial and infrastructure facilities are built, both with national resources and with foreign (Chinese, European, Turkish and other) investment, a certain portion of accumulated trade capital, which has no opportunities for capitalization in the manufacturing sector, will objectively depreciate, and in fact, is already depreciating. This is causing crisis trends in Kazakhstan’s economy (while the US economy is showing significant growth and the EU economy is emerging from the crisis, showing limited growth) and is fueling devaluation expectations among the greater part of Kazakhstan’s public.

At the same time, although Kazakhstan’s losses due to falling oil prices in 2014 were quite significant, causing Kazakhstan’s credit rating in early 2015 to be reduced from BBB+ to BBB with a negative outlook, nevertheless, the country’s balance of trade remains positive, which, coupled with the remaining volume of Kazakhstan’s international reserves, as well as large hydrocarbon reserves, is a positive factor for Kazakhstan’s international ratings.

Political modernization

In domestic politics, it is crucial to start reformatting social policy. It is necessary to prioritize the formation of national social capital: forms of trust, cohesion and mobilization of the nation by reforming political and legal relations and the religious environment, and creating a single national identity based on indigenous Kazakh culture, which is a fundamental model for the development of interethnic relations in the Republic of Kazakhstan. In the ideological sphere, efforts will continue to preserve and strengthen social and political stability and consolidate society and all ethnic groups around the political ideas of the Leader of the Nation, the republic’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

During this period, national production and information transmission systems will continue to be consolidated, as will national cultural policy and the education, healthcare and social security systems.

In 2015, preparations will begin for parliamentary elections in 2016 or early parliamentary elections in 2015. Wide-ranging socio-political issues will be addressed as part of the parliamentary election campaign, including the elimination of the monopoly of a single political party, the development of a genuine multiparty system with a strong presidential party, legal and judicial reform and territorial administration reform. Issues related to the reform of Kazakhstan’s political system will be raised more openly, especially the issue of transferring power to the second president.

Kazakhstan’s foreign policy will be an extension of its domestic policy.

In its foreign policy, the republic will begin to:

  • overcome the difficulties and threats related to the deteriorating situation in the EAEU space by strengthening its economic sovereignty (a protectionist policy is already in effect). This will be facilitated by the opening of the International Trade Center in Khorgos and the building of facilities as part of the Economic Corridor of the Great Silk Road;
  • balance the Russian, Chinese and Western political influence in Kazakhstan’s political and social space;
  • resume (reset) and develop multilateral security cooperation with the US, the EU, China, the Asia Pacific Region (through China and directly) and countries of the Middle East;
  • develop close economic ties with leading OECD countries, as well as with Central Asian, Turkic and Southeast Asian nations.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.