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Analysis

Nazarbayev's Fifth Term in Office and Challenges ahead

Sunday 3 May 2015
Nazarbayev's Fifth Term in Office and Challenges ahead

Alwaght- 74-year old Nazarbayev was elected president of Kazakhstan for the fifth time. Meanwhile, he is facing great challenges. There has been increasing speculation over his succession.

Kazakh officials say turnout in presidential and Parliament elections of Kazakhstan on 26 April  topped 95 percent. Accordingly, Nursultan Nazarbayev won more than 97 percent of the vote and for the fifth consecutive time he will be sworn in as the President of Kazakhstan. He spent nearly a third of his life ruling Kazakhstan, a country with a population of 16 million, and the ninth largest country in the world.

Nazarbayev bearing the title of "leader of the Nation", on the eve of election said 93 percent of its people are satisfied with the current situation of the country. There is no political figure in Kazakhstan to succeed Nursultan Nazarbayev, "president for life". Even 68 years old Turgun Syzdykov, secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and 63-year-old Abel Ghazi Kusainov, head of national federation of trade unions, two rivals to Nazarbayev in the presidential election were considered pro-government.

According to the country's constitution, an individual can stand as a candidate in the presidential elections only for two consecutive terms, but Nazarbayev is the first president excluded from this requirement.

Why was the presidential election called ahead of schedule?

It is the fourth time that Kazakhstan called the presidential election ahead of schedule. Early elections have turned to a "political tradition" in this country. It seems that fearing possible public protests, Nazarbayev was forced to hold early election. Although there are different motivations for holding early elections, the decline in energy prices and persistent economic issues and crisis in Ukraine are mentioned as the main reasons for early election in Kazakhstan.

Experts say social services in Kazakhstan has declined, macroeconomic projects have stopped and salaries have also been delayed. It is feared that the country will face crisis and public protests in 2015.

Anatolia Bashmakov, head of the "Assembly of People of Kazakhstan" says that 2016 is the peak of the global economic crisis and early elections would be quite reasonable. As result of the elimination of tariffs between Kazakhstan and Russia in early 2015, there has been an influx of Russian goods to Kazakhstan market. Many companies working in food and construction industry in Kazakhstan, were closed and there was a public outcry in the country. Within two months, more than 50 thousand cars were imported into the country. Car prices fell about 25 percent. Mr. Nazarbayev has held election to once again demonstrate public support and pursue his goals more strongly.

In addition, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) expressed its concern about Nazarbayev’s abusing his post during the election. Meanwhile, OSCE criticized that Nazarbayev's posters and billboards were "visible throughout the country" while his rivals distributed "almost no campaign materials." At the same time, more than 1,026 foreign observers monitored the elections.

Kazakhstan, a victim of Soviet nuclear tests

One of the great challenges facing the President of Kazakhstan is to eliminate the negative effects of nuclear tests conducted in their country by Soviet Union. In Semiplantinsk nuclear base in Kazakhstan, about 460 nuclear explosions were tested between 1949 and 1989. Due to radiation, cancer rates and premature delivery in this area is high compared to other regions of the country and the negative consequences of these tests persist. These conditions have had thousands of victims.

Russians in four provinces of Kazakhstan

Ukraine crisis made Kazakhstan more anxious than any other country. Kazakhstan, second to Russian Federation is the only country that has the largest number of Russian speakers. About a quarter of Kazakhstan's population are Russians.

For years, Nazarbayev have been concerned about the Russian-speaking provinces of the country trying to join Russia. Given the persistence of Ukraine crisis, in the fifth term of his presidency, Nazarbayev would be more anxious about this issue, and to further preserve the integrity and sovereignty of Kazakhstan would be one of the largest challenges he might go through.

Uwe Halbach, expert on the Caucasus and Central Asia at the Foundation for Science and Politics, said in Berlin that Nazarbayev transferred the capital from Almaty to Astana in 1998 to prevent the incorporation of four provinces to Russia. To establish complete control over the country, he proposed changing the name of the country to "Kazakh Eily" (land of the Kazakhs).

Who is the successor to Nazarbayev?

Despite being 74-year-old, Nazarbayev says "as long as I am healthy enough to remain in power, I will do it." However, experts believe that the debate over his successor will be intensified in the new term of his presidency. Accordingly, one of the greatest challenges facing Nazarbayev is to appoint his successor. Nazarbayev has no son; however, his eldest daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva, among his three daughters is more likely to succeed his father. Eldest daughter of Kazakhstan's president is considered the richest woman in the country. He owns a news agency and some other television channels. She is also well active in the politics of Kazakhstan.

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