Kazakhstan’s presidential election candidates continue to underwhelm.Party of Patriots leader Gani Kasymov, seen as likely to claim most of the crumbs incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev fails to suck up, has committed what might in most countries be considered a PR disaster.Ahead of a pre-arranged live interview at RFE/RL’s Kazakh service Azattyk studio Thursday, Kasymov demanded to know what questions would be put to him. Having acquainted himself with the line of questioning, he retorted with a curt “nuh-uh,” leaving Azattyk with no guest to interview. Still though, to Kasymov’s credit, he has maintained a sustained and eclectic output of pronouncements in an election contest light on policy platforms. He has also been the only one of the four candidates, including Nazarbayev, to do the routine rounds one would normally expect of a presidential election candidate.This week, he dropped by a medical research facility to express his hope for eradicating tuberculosis in Kazakhstan. He also popped into a fire station in Almaty to find out what contingency measures are in place to deal with an earthquake like the one in Japan. That visit prompted the following enlightening exchange:
Kasymov: “How long are the ladders on your fire trucks?”Fireman: “37 meters. They’re designed for 13-story buildings.”Kasymov: “And what if the buildings are taller, what then?”Fireman: “In that case, we’ve got a truck with a 52-meter ladder.”
Kasymov speaks, of course, with the authority of a man who has headed the volunteer firefighting society since 2002.Other interesting remarks included a call earlier this month to create the position of vice president—a role he says could be occupied by the Senate speaker, currently first in line to succeed the president. With incumbent speaker Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev soon set to leave for a new UN job in Geneva, maybe Kasymov has his eyes on that juicy sinecure.