Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Kaz without Naz

Like everyone else who follows this stuff, I was totally surprised by the news yesterday that Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned as President of Kazakhstan. It actually suggests to me that he cares about his country and views it as more than just a vehicle for self enrichment and power.

I have been wondering and also fearing a little bit how the post-Nazarbayev succession would play out. Now ex-Prez Naz has resigned from the Presidency but retains his chairmanship of the Security Council, his membership on the Constitutional Council, and his leadership of the Nur Otan ruling party. He is also still holds the symbolic title of "leader of the people" of Kazakhstan that parliament gave him in 2010. It is pretty clear that Nazarbayev while stepping back from the presidency, will continue to dominate its politics.

The real test will be the 2020 presidential election, when we see whether the elections are truly competitive. If Nazarbayev really wants to guide his nation into a country with real multiparty elections, he should also resign as leader of Nur Otan. If he continues to guide the country into next years elections, he can't credibly make it into a real democracy unless he stops being leader of the ruling party. See the chant I witnessed in Kazakhstan "Kazakhstan! Nursultan! Nur Otan!."