NUR-SULTAN – Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kazakhstan’s head of state following last month’s resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, will run for president in elections slated for June 9 after receiving support on Tuesday from the ruling Nur Otan party.
“I will go to the elections to continue the strategic course marked by President Nazarbayev and guarantee the continuity of his policies,” said Tokayev, who received the unanimous support of the 623 Nur Otan delegates attending a special party congress in the Kazakh capital.
Tokayev, 65, thanked Nazarbayev for submitting his candidacy, and vowed to “do everything possible” to not disappoint his trust.
Nazarbayev, leader of Nur Otan, called on his fellow citizens to support Tokayev in the June polling, because “today he is the most worthy candidate to occupy the highest office in the country,” which occupies the 144th place in the The Economist’s Democracy Index.
“He was my faithful ally during all those years and supported all initiatives and undertakings. I trust him,” Nazarbayev said.
The first president of Kazakhstan, who headed the second-largest post-Soviet economy for almost 30 years, announced his decision to retire on March 19, opening a period of transition in the country bathed by the Caspian Sea.
As speaker of the Senate Tokayev assumed the presidency and called early presidential elections for June 9 in order to “ensure political harmony” and “clear all uncertainty.”
It is unclear who will be running against Tokayev, or whether the two other parties in Parliament or the country’s handful of minor parties will field candidates.
Political analyst Dossym Satpaev, director of Risk Assessment Group, recently told EFE, “the announcement of the elections and the possibility of making an honest choice are two different things in Kazakhstan.”
“The script of these elections, the composition of the participants, the masses and the main soloist, are probably already defined. The opposition field has been swept,” he said.
The future president “will not only be the successor of the authorities, but also of the problems that have accumulated and of which many have not been resolved,” he said.
The analyst pointed to the protests of mothers of large families to demand an improvement in their living conditions after the death of five children in a house fire in the capital while their parents worked, demonstrations in an oil producing town and a “disorderly” migration policy.
“There has not been a real transfer of power, which continues in the hands of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is the head of the Security Council and was named ‘Leader of the Nation’,” a lifetime post, he said.
Satpaev said it would only be possible to discuss change in Kazakhstan when Nazarbayev decided to definitively abandon the country’s political landscape, although even then power “will possibly be concentrated in the hands of (Nazarbayev’s)inner circle.”
But Rashim Oshakbaev, the head of the Talap Center non-governmental think tank, told EFE that now for Kazakhstan “the most important thing is stability.”
“The opposition may regret that the elections are held without their candidates, but the truth is that in all these years it has done nothing (...) to present (to the elections) a face known by the people,” he said.
“There is no time for wavering, you have to set goals and move forward,” Professor Kazbek Kazkenov told EFE.