Kassym-Jomart Tokayev bets on youth

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev bets on youth

On June 10, the new president of Kazakhstan will be named. The first for all the years of independence presidential election was held in the republic yesterday, in which the leader of the Nation (Elbasy) Nursultan Nazarbayev took part as a voter. He said that the people are pinning their hopes on the new president to achieve a better future, stability and calm situation in the country.

Seven candidates, including one woman, were vying for the top state office. However, the main favorite was the current head of state, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. There is no a minimum voter turnout, the elections will be declared valid in any case. A candidate must win more than 50% of the vote to win the election. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, there will be a second round.

Experts are unanimous that there was no political heat during the election campaign. Even the first televised debates among candidates could not spice it up. Nevertheless, according to Kazakh political analyst Askar Nursha, the citizens of the country couldn't help but feel that the political atmosphere had changed. The intensity of political debate has increased, and discussions have moved from the kitchen to public places, which is not a bad thing. And this is a new situation to get used to. "They say politics is the art of the possible. And the borders of the 'possible' have significantly expanded since March 19 [On this day Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation after almost 30 years in power. On March 20, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, former speaker of the upper house of the parliament, was sworn in as the head of state. Three weeks after taking office, Tokayev called a snap election - VK]. Of course, there are conservatives, or those who like the way it was before and who are not ready for a change. And there are those who are dissatisfied and want more from the government," Nursha believes.

Indeed, there are those dissatisfied in Kazakhstan. On election day, according to various estimates, more than 100 people took to the streets in Almaty and Nur-Sultan calling for 'holding a fair election.' Law enforcement agencies have stopped attempts to hold mass actions. And President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called on all opposition forces to demonstrate restraint and dialogue. "I advised all representatives of the law to be tolerant and exercise restraint, but serious violations of the law, of course, would not be tolerated. At the same time, I urge all young people to exercise restraint, to be tolerant to the power, to the government. We need a dialogue, we must keep together to develop our country," Tokayev said.

On the eve, he wrote on Twitter that his task is advancing young professionals, including from the civilian sector, into the state administration system. The first list of 300 high-potential employees will be prepared before the end of the year. "Young people are the engine of the upcoming reforms," Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted. According to him, the role of civil society is increasing. "This is a natural and positive phenomenon. Therefore, a strong, authoritative and multi-party Parliament, developed civil society institutions is the main road to further political modernization," the Kazakh president wrote.

Director of the Alternativa Center for Topical Studies Andrei Chebotarev presented his forecast for the future of Kazakhstan: the government will stay, the governors and heads of law enforcement agencies will step down from office. Of course, not everyone will return to their offices. "It's not about personalities in the first place, but about the format of relationships in the elites and at the top of the Olympus. Who is more important, the elected president or Elbasy, the chairman of the Security Council, of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the honorary senator who promised to work with others on the new president, before whom there will be an inevitable dilemma between 'rule or dominate'? Since the latter does not recognize any other restrictions, except for legislative ones. Whose word will be decisive when choosing candidates for the posts of heads of security agencies and akims? We should not forget about the intraelite factor as well. Each of those swearing in to the new president must reconsider their position in the coordinate system. Although, for sure it will be difficult for them to get rid of the temptation to push through or keep their own henchmen at their posts. A desire to concede their positions will also not disappear," the expert believes.

According to Chebotarev, summer is going to be interesting, full of conflicts and collisions of interests. And the first will be around choosing governors and chief security officials. It should not be considered from the standpoint of moral and treaty compliance. It's not about personal characteristics of the participants in the process, but about the logic of the system development, which inevitably implies a new reconfiguration and its adaptation to the updated reality. Moreover, it promises to be more significant than after March 19th.

As for Kazakhstan’s foreign policy, the researcher at the Center for the Study of Central Asia, the Caucasus and Urals-Volga Region of the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Vorobyov told VK that continuity will remain within the framework of the existing foreign policy. On the one hand, there will be novelty factors, and new people and a team alone is a renovation. Besides, post-Soviet countries have a high degree of personalization of power. 

On the other hand, there are factors that determine the continuity in policy. "Foreign policy is largely determined by the state's economic and security needs, and not by the leadership figure. These needs are unlikely to change in a few months. Foreign policy is a reflection of the collective will of the country's elites. The interests of Kazakh elites in Russia, the United States and China also change little over short periods of time," Vorobyev believes.

According to him, the fact that there is a foreign policy consensus in Kazakhstan, in contrast to a number of other post-Soviet countries (Ukraine, Moldova and others), which is mostly shared by elites and society, argues for continuity. Its main features are:

1) a commitment to preserve and strengthen the state sovereignty

2) a multi-vector nature

3) good neighborly relations with Russia and China, constructive relations with other centers of power (the EU, the U.S.)

4) an active participation in the work of international organizations.

"The foundations of this consensus were laid by the first president of Kazakhstan. For two and a half decades, this consensus, in general, has demonstrated its effectiveness. Therefore, it will continue under the next head of state," Vorobyov stressed. According to him, certain shifts caused by Kazakhstan's economic and security needs are possible within the framework of the existing foreign policy course.  As for Nur-Sultan's interaction with other international players, it will not happen at the expense of the quality and intensity of cooperation with Moscow. "Russian-Kazakh relations is a powerful and stable system of relations, which includes political and economic cooperation, security and defense cooperation, scientific, technical and humanitarian contacts, cross-border cooperation and much more. In addition, both parties are interested in high-quality and intensive bilateral relations," Vorobyev said. The expert noted that the relations between Moscow and Nur-Sultan (Astana) were initially built considering Kazakhstan's interests and needs. For example, when signing the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union in 2014, the provisions that didn't work for Kazakhstan, as well as Minsk (a general citizenship, a common parliament, etc.) were excluded from its text.

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