Why Kazakhstan elections matter?

By Yerkin Akhinzhanov,
Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Norway

On June 9, Kazakhstan will hold a presidential election. This is a most important moment, not least because a head of state can take the country in a particular direction and set tasks and priorities for government that can have an impact on the country and beyond. It is also the first time in almost thirty years that a new President of the Republic of Kazakhstan will be elected.

 The upcoming election is promising to be the most competitive and diverse in Kazakhstan’s history as an independent nation. A total of seven candidates have been registered by the Central Election Commission. The list includes the first female candidate to run for President – Daniya Yespayeva from the Ak Zhol party.

It would be a fair assessment to say that our wider region is heavily male-dominated when it comes to politics. However, over many years, Kazakhstan has taken concrete steps to improve gender equality and to promote women’s role in business and politics. We are now witnessing the fruits of this labour. In addition to Ms. Yespayeva, the Senate Chairwoman as well as the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Education and Science are also female, as are approximately a quarter of the members of Parliament in Kazakhstan.

Another aspect of the election which experts have focused on is the competitiveness and fairness of the process. This is understandable, as according to some organisations and analysts, our region as a whole is still developing the necessary democratic institutions and mechanisms to ensure completely fair and open elections.

Nevertheless, I believe Kazakhstan is once again demonstrating that it is going beyond the general expectations and foregone conclusions. As is well known, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev promised that the election will be transparent and to the highest expected standards. The country can already offer concrete examples of the sincerity of this pledge. For example, presidential candidate Amirzhan Kossanov has been in opposition to the government for around two decades. He, and all candidates, are now openly campaigning in the hope of securing people’s votes.

Kazakhstan has always welcomed observers and their constructive feedback during previous elections, and this time more than 1,000 international observers from ten international organisations, as well as foreign countries, are expected to be in Kazakhstan for the election. Our government has officially invited the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Commonwealth of Independent States and numerous other organisations. Their missions are now deploying across the country.

The upcoming vote is not just important to Kazakhstan, but to our neighbours and partners all over the world. As is known, Kazakhstan has been actively participating in global affairs, including, most recently, the provision of ceasefire in Syria. From an economic perspective, our government has also been vigorously improving Kazakhstan’s investment climate, making us the number one investment destination in the region.

Having arrived in Oslo only three weeks ago, I see great potentials for making Kazakhstan and Norway close partners in trans-Eurasian communications, connecting Northern Europe with markets of China and Central Asia, enhancing partnership in energy, food supply, sports and culture. For 27 years Norway has been a model for many reforms in Kazakhstan, including the establishment of the National Fund for revenues from oil. Today we want to introduce advanced practices in building an efficient welfare state with a sustainable economy and society.

Thus the new political developments (or “power transit”, as political scientists often put it) at the heart of Eurasia is very important process to watch.

The results of the presidential election will be officially confirmed by June 16. Active work will then begin to continue to develop close ties between Kazakhstan and Norway. We have every reason to be confident about the future and the cooperation between our countries.

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