News / Asia

Kazakhstan Faces Political Challenges Despite Economic Boom

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev seen at the start of Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan's capital, Dec. 1, 2010
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev seen at the start of Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan's capital, Dec. 1, 2010
James Brooke

The ninth-largest country in the world, Kazakhstan holds enormous reserves of oil and gas, and is the world's ninth-largest producer of uranium. Behind its booming economy, however, a bigger problem lurks on the political horizon.

In a modern capital on the Central Asian steppe, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev welcomed world leaders to a northern hemisphere security summit Tuesday, saying:  "We have created a democracy in a part of the world where it has never existed before."

Analysts point out that the creation of democracy is debatable. But what President Nazabayev has created is a booming middle class economy in the heart of Central Asia.

Kazakhstan's turbocharged economy fuels 60 percent of Central Asia's economic activity, despite the fact it only accounts for one quarter the region's population.

In the past decade, Kazakhstan's per-capita income increased 10 times, leaving Central Asian neighbors far behind and approaching levels seen in Eastern Europe.

After investing $100 billion in energy development during the past 15 years, Kazakhstan now wants to match that amount during this decade.

Aiming to double oil production in a decade, Kazakhstan is on track to join the exclusive club of the world's top 10 oil-producing countries.

But Mr. Nazarbayev, who has presided over Kazakhstan since 1989, turned 70 in September.

In Almaty, the country's commercial capital, political scientist Dosym Satpayev voices a big question on the minds of investors.

"For Kazakhstan, one of the main questions, what will happen after the death of President Nazarbayev? Because, unfortunately, all our political system, all our economical system, connected with only one person, this is the person of President Nazarbayev," Satpayev said. "All our elite groups around president Nazarbayev, they are going to fight for power."

In May, Kazakhstan's parliament overwhelmingly approved legislation granting Nazarbayev status of 'National Leader.'

Free of term limits and bolstered by high approval ratings, he agreed last month to run Kazakhstan through 2020. Faced with ruling Central Asia's dominant nation through the age of 80, though, he did ask one supporter for an 'elixir' of youth.

In this patriarchal society, Mr. Nazarbayev has not publicly acknowledged a male heir. He also has not shown interest in the power sharing path of Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.  Three years ago, Mr. Putin decided to step partially out of the limelight to allow protégé Dmitri Medvedev to serve a term as president.

Kazakh opposition activist Aidos Sarym said that there is no successor in sight.

Without adopting the Putin model, Mr. Nazarbayev perhaps is boxed into ruling the nation until the end of his biological days.

Sarym and other opposition activists say there is little democracy in Kazakhstan. Every seat in parliament is occupied by members of the president's ruling coalition. The government tightly controls the press and the elections. For years, Mr. Nazarbayev has appointed all major officials, down to judges and electoral officials at the district level.

Opposition activist Sarym sees little of the kind of democracy the government promoted prior to this week's Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe summit in Astana. Sarym forecasts Kazakh authoritarianism is fated to stagnate the way the Soviet Union did under the later years of Leonid Brezhnev.

With the country's bounding economy - and without access to the mass media - Kazakhstan's opposition remains marginalized.  

A human-rights leader is serving a four-year jail sentence in a remote jail for a traffic accident. A labor leader was convicted recently on drug-possession charges. Union members charge police planted the drugs.

In late October, Vladimir Kozlov, an opposition figure, announced that he was running for president.  A nationalist group broke into the press conference and pelted Kozlov with eggs and water bottles. The next day, Almaty tax authorities announced that they were launching a tax investigation of the opposition candidate for president.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid