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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid