Russian-Kazakh relations worthy of emulation

4 avril 2011
Arnaud Dubien - RIA Novosti – Valdai Discussion Club
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev most likely decided to hold snap presidential elections nearly two years before his term expires due to domestic political factors, as opposed to the continuing public unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

After Kazakhstan held the OSCE’s rotating chairmanship last year, the ruling elite probably decided that it is about time for the population to once again confirm the president’s legitimacy.

Nazabayev could have accomplished this feat in several ways, such as by holding a referendum to prolong his term for another ten years. However, he publicly rejected this option and instead decided to hold snap presidential elections to renew his term and strengthen his power.

It’s worth noting that the Kazakh elite were already considering the next stage in the country’s development and a possible successor for Nazarbayev. However, they most likely decided to postpone the passing of the torch for another five years to guarantee stability.

The president’s inner team boasts numerous influential individuals who could become the country’s next leader. Among them are Kairat Kelimbetov, the head of the Samruk-Kazyna national welfare fund, the Astana and Almaty mayors and Deputy Prime Minister Umirzak Shukeyev.

Nazarbayev is cleverly playing on the tensions between these individuals. However, as public and government stability hinges on only one person in Kazakhstan, the president’s departure could spur in-fighting between Nazarbayev’s possible successors. Most probably, this was the main reason why Nazarbayev’s term has been extended.

In my personal opinion, I don’t expect any major changes to Kazakhstan’s foreign policy after the snap elections. Nazarbayev will most likely confirm Kazakhstan’s membership in the Customs Union with Russia and Belarus, and press forward with his multi-vector policy.

Speaking of Russian-Kazakh relations, they’re without question the most successful ties between any two countries in the post-Soviet space. Of course, contradictions have always existed, and they will continue to exist. But they’ve never led to confrontation. The Russian and Kazakh presidents always manage to find balanced compromises. Their relations will continue to develop in all directions. Also, the two countries will certainly continue mutual economic integration within the Customs Union. As for security issues, Kazakhstan and Russia have a common instability factor in Afghanistan.

Most importantly, Russia and Kazakhstan respect one another. Moscow considers Nazarbayev a significant figure who has political weight and prestige, as evidenced by Russia’s decision to support Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s candidacy as the director-general of the UN Office in Geneva.

Additionally, I don’t believe that Nazarbayev cares who wins the 2012 presidential elections in Russia. He has managed to maintain fruitful ties with all Russia’s leaders, from Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.

Therefore, Russian-Kazakh relations can be called a showcase worthy of emulation.

Arnaud Dubien is research director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS)
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