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Kazakhstan: Law Narrows Field for Presidential Contenders

Implausible as it might seem, a day will come when Kazakhstan will have a president other than the one now in power.

But before Nursultan Nazarbayev departs his throne — however that happens — he has taken provisions to ensure he determines at least some things about his successor.

In that spirit, he signed off on July 11 on a law that restricts the field for pretenders to the presidency. One new provision will deny anybody suffering from any ailments “impeding the fulfillment of presidential duties” the right to run for the highest office in the land. Which specific conditions that wording covers is not clear.

In an even more problematic and exclusionary rule, candidates to the presidency will now be required to have accrued at least five years of experience in a government job. That means a person like Donald Trump, for instance, could never take over the reins as head of state in Kazakhstan — a prerequisite that might draw sighs of wistful envy from many people in the United States.

Other changes approved on the same day by Nazarbayev will affect anybody found to have committed "grave" or terroristic criminal acts. This point seems addressed in large part at the contingent of citizens of Kazakhstan that have traveled to the Middle East to join in armed conflict with radical Islamic groups.

In theory though, the wording — “participation … in a foreign armed conflict, extremism and/or terrorist activity on the territory of a foreign state” — could as easily apply to the substantial number of Kazakhstani citizens that have enrolled in the ranks of Russian-backed separatist forces fighting Ukrainian government troops in the east of that country.

What all these provisions share is a high degree of susceptibility to skewed and subjective interpretations. And that is probably the whole point.

Kazakhstan: Law Narrows Field for Presidential Contenders

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