Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev Confirms Plans to Extend Long Rule
The long-serving strongman leader of Kazakhstan has confirmed his intention to stand for reelection in a snap vote next month. He is guaranteed to win a landslide.
Nursultan Nazarbayev accepted the nomination of his ruling Nur Otan party to stand in the April 26 election at a party congress on March 11, his Twitter feed reported.
“I declare my agreement to stand as a candidate for president from the Nur Otan party in the upcoming elections,” @AkordaPress, the Twitter account run by the presidential administration, quoted him as saying.
“We must move forward,” he told the congress in remarks quoted by Tengri News, after delegate after delegate had proposed in fawning speeches that the incumbent accept the nomination. Nazarbayev remarked that he was “not so young” but was ready to “do great deeds in the future.”
Nazarbayev’s announcement means that a landslide win by the incumbent – who enjoys genuine public popularity fed by a thriving cult of personality – is a foregone conclusion.
No members of Kazakhstan’s beleaguered and marginalized opposition – which boycotted the last election in 2011 – have filed bids to stand. So Nazarbayev will face only stalking horse candidates.
The nomination process is currently in progress, and eight out of 14 other candidates who have applied have been rejected after failing the obligatory Kazakh-language test. The rejected bids include one by Yesenbek Ukteshbayev, a prominent social rights activist who has fallen foul of the government in the past and landed in jail.
Nazarbayev announced the snap election, which is being held nearly two years early, last month. He said it was necessary to push through a stimulus package as Kazakhstan faces an economic slowdown, and to boost stability and unity amid geopolitical tensions over the Ukraine conflict, to fend off “nationwide alarm that no internal discord or external conflicts should affect our country.”
Nazarbayev enjoys legal immunity from the usual term limits and has the right to stand for president for life. He last won reelection in 2011 with 95.6 percent of the vote. Kazakhstan has never held an election deemed free and fair by credible international observers.
Already in power for a quarter of a century, Nazarbayev is one of the world’s longest-serving leaders. At the end of another term the 74-year-old president would be 80 years old.
In a hint that he is looking to an eventual handover of power, he pledged reforms to withdraw some powers from the omnipotent office of the presidency and hand them to the rubberstamp parliament. But as the strnogman heads for another term, no-one is expecting a post-Nazarbayev Kazakhstan any time soon.