Tuesday, March 08, 2011

the point

the kazakhstani presidential election season is in full swing. mrs. noz and i have had a few conversations about what exactly the point is. everyone knows that the incumbant nursultan nazarbayev will win. the only real question is whether he will get a mere 85% of the vote, or something in the 90s. so why waste all the time, money and effort to have an election when the winner is a foregone conclusion?

it's interesting that in this day and age no one is willing to call themselves an autocracy. almost all of the world's dictatorships pretend to be democracies. they have constitutions listing rights that aren't actually given to anyone, they hold fake elections, et cetera. it wasn't always like this. twentieth century fascist governments called themselves fascists. once they came to power, they didn't bother with fake elections. but these days while alternative forms of government are widely practiced, everything but democracy has been discredited, so almost every country at least pretends to be a democracy.

in that context kazakhstan going through the democratic motions makes sense, to do something else would be out of the world mainstream and draw unnecessary attention on their shortcomings. but what's in it for the opposition candidates? what would motivate anyone to participate in the farce? the end of this post caught my eye:
Since Nazarbayev is clearly going to win, what exactly is at stake for all these contenders, one might ask.

Nazarbayev adviser and confidante Yermukhamet Yertysbayev offers a revealing answer in an interview with Ekspress-K newspaper: "The runner-up can officially claim the title of national leader of the opposition, and his party stands a very good chance of getting into parliament at the upcoming parliamentary elections. And this is a good launching pad for the 2016 presidential election. Life does not end in 2011."

Guessing which party is going to get into the rubber-stamp Majlis, currently monopolized by Nazarbayev's Nur Otan, is something of a popular parlor game in Kazakhstan these days and Yertysbayev's observations offer a helpful hint about the government's thinking on the matter.
in the background of all this is the fact that president-for-life nazarbayev is 70 years old in a country where the average life expectancy for males is age 60. no one knows who will lead the country after nazarbayev, he has not groomed an obvious successor. but whoever is the leader of the opposition has a better shot than most to get an important slot in whatever government follows this one. in the west, elections decide who will get the office in the next term. in kazakhstan this presidential election may be more about who gets an office in the more distant future.