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Kazakhstan’s Presidential Election: Giant Step towards Political Stability & Economic Sustainability

Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

Presidential Election 2019 campaign is at its peak in Kazakhstan. There are seven candidates from different political parties and organizations are taking part in the upcoming presidential election to be held on June 9, 2019.
According to Kazak Central Election Commission, incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Ak Zhol Democratic Party nominee Daniya Yespayeva have collected the most signatures of the seven candidates registered as of May 6 by the Kazakh Central Election Commission for the June 9 presidential election. According to CEC regulations, the candidates are required to collect at least 118,146 signatures, which is 1 percent of Kazakhstan’s 11,814,019 registered voters. Candidates must also pass a Kazakh language examination and be free of a list of 107 physical and mental ailments. Incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev nominated by the ruling Nur Otan Party collected the most signatures at 313,653 signatures from 17 regions. Tokayev was followed by Daniya Yespayeva nominated by the Ak Zhol Democratic Party who collected 139,541 reliable signatures from all 17 regions.

Presidential candidates Zhambyl Akhmetbekov, Amirzhan Kossanov, Toleutai Rakhimbekov, Amangeldy Taspikhov, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Sadybek Tugel and Daniya Yespayeva are competing for next president of Kazakhstan. It is expected that successful, free, fair and transparent political transition will take care about country’s salient socio-economic comparative advantages, and institutional reforms to secure the country’s continued development. The ultimate goal of upcoming election is to achieve elements of stability and sustainability in the system to achieve the desired goals of politicization, democratization and qualitative life in the country.

Kazak government is arranging innovative “Country Votes campaign” by using virtual platform of Facebook and Instagram accounts as well as public events. It is hoped that the social media posts will encourage voter participation. The Facebook Elorda Live page also allows residents to post stories and videos supporting the upcoming presidential elections. The posts will be accompanied by hashtags #WeChooseFuture, #YourVoteIsImportant and #Sailau2019.

The social media component of the Heart of the Country Votes campaign is a part of a larger Kazakh government initiative to better incorporate social media into its outreach and services. The campaign will also include public events and information kiosks with information about where to vote in local districts.

Political stability is the key “push forward” factor to excel in economic growth and holding of snap election would definitely achieve it. The government of Kazakhstan invested more than $US 24 billion during 2018 which outperformed all the central Asian countries in the region and amounted 90 percent of Central Asia’s total foreign direct investment in the fiscal year of 2018. The country also jumped to 28th place in the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report, having occupied 36th place in the 2018 report.
Moreover, Kazak government secured to sign 43 agreements worth $8.7 billion at the May 17 Kazakhstan Global Investment Roundtable signaled investor confidence in the country’s transition of power. It institutionalized various initiatives, such as the new Coordinating Council, chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin and aimed at attracting and protecting foreign investment is an opportunity for the country’s new president to sustain this confidence.

Third Modernization and 100 Concrete Steps to Implement Five Institutional Reforms, aim to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms, decreasing the state’s role in the economy, reorganising the banking sector and raising public trust in the criminal justice system. The country’s 2017 constitutional reforms were meant to provide the government with the authority and independence to fulfill these objectives and upcoming Presidential Election 2019 would enhance government’s confidence to attract more and more FDIs in the country. It would provide element of continuity in the system.

Being prominent regional expert on Kazakhstan and CIS I personal think that social welfare would be further enhanced and protected after this transitional period. Kazakhstan is a multinational state, where more than 130 ethnicity groups live in peace. Each group has the right to learn its own language and create communities that help to preserve its traditions and customs and pass them to the next generation Social equality must be mantra of new government. It is hoped that the new government will take effective steps in improving living standards, stimulating the economy and implementing strategic objectives. There should be balanced regional development policy aiming to social welfare for citizens of low socioeconomic status and housing options for socially vulnerable groups after the upcoming election.

Kazakhstan will elect one of seven candidates for the country’s highest office June 9. Citizens will be able to vote in the presidential election at 9,970 polling stations, including 65 stations in 51 foreign countries. Each polling place will be open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. without lunch breaks. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), 11,814,019 Kazakh citizens are eligible to vote in the upcoming election. The CEC will also issue 118,140 extra ballots, representing one percent of the voter lists.

To facilitate the voters and achieve highest turn out if a voter cannot come to his/her registered polling station, he/she was required to notify the local executive body with a written application for inclusion at the place of stay by May 9, 30 days before the election.

Citizens who cannot come to the polling station for health reasons or are caring for a sick family member should write a statement to his/her registered polling station no later than 12 p.m., June 9. Electoral commission members will come to them with a portable ballot box.

Citizens abroad can vote at Kazakh embassies and consulates. Voter lists at diplomatic missions include all citizens who hold a Kazakh passport and live in a relevant foreign country or are on a long-term foreign business trip. The list will also include Kazakh citizens who are visiting on private invitations or are on official, business and tourist trips, when they apply to the precinct election commission.

An electronic voting system will not be used. The Sailau system was introduced in the 2000s, but has never been reintroduced due to a wave of criticism from political parties, the public and observers. Only the paper ballots are used across the country.

Seven participating candidates have their own specific agendas, priorities and goals. Amirzhan Kossanov, promises political freedoms, protecting the country’s and people’s interests, tougher measures to curb corruption and a course towards European standards. He was nominated April 26 by the Ult Tagdyry United National Patriotic Movement. He is projecting his political campaign based on political freedoms; national identity; real independence in deeds and not in words; no to corruption; civilised and people-friendly economy, and rich regions mean rich country. He also promised to make Kazakhstan “a truly democratic, unitary, legal, fair and socially responsible state and to occupy its decent place in a world of civilised countries.”

Kossanov also proposes strengthening the role of the Kazakh language as a “factor uniting the country’s citizens.” His is suggesting compiling a list of positions that will require language proficiency and guaranteeing ethnic Kazakhs living abroad a return to historical land and citizenship. Furthermore, he promises include a stronger course towards the European Union and its standards, maintaining trust-based and close ties with its Central Asian neighbours and multi-vector diplomacy.

Kazakhstan’s first female presidential candidate Daniya Yespayeva was nominated by Ak Zhol Democratic Party candidate which cares about the interests of small and medium-sized businesses.” She received 49.5 percent of the party’s 190 voters in a secret ballot, collected 139,541 signatures in the country’s 17 regions to meet the CEC requirements for presidential candidacy and is the first woman in Kazakh history to run for president.
She promises to develop a market economy, democracy and social justice” in Kazakhstan. During her political campaign she considers mass entrepreneurship and fair competition as the main conditions for citizens’ improved well-being. She proposes to reduce the loan rates of the Kazakh National Bank and second-tier banks, stop periodic currency devaluations, develop non-bank financial instruments and institutions such as the Astana International Financial Centre, simplify tax administration and reporting, deter officials from obstructing business activity, reduce the value-added tax (VAT) rate for priority sectors or replace the VAT rate with a sales tax, prioritize local businesses, introduce parliamentary monitoring over national companies’ activities to ensure efficient public fund use, digitise interaction on customs and tax procedures among businesses and government agencies and establish greater transparency in the public procurement system. She upholds that independence, territorial integrity and national identity are Kazakhstan’s most important values, along with people’s rights and freedoms. She advocates for respecting Kazakhstan’s history, culture, state language and the languages and cultures of all ethnic groups, decolonising the public consciousness through renaming objects, streets and settlements, upholding the passing of an exam on knowledge of the Kazakh Constitution, history and state language as a requirement for granting Kazakh citizenship, supporting Kazakhstan’s traditional religions and protecting society’s spiritual sphere from foreign influence.

Being prominent regional expert on Kazakhstan and CIS I predict that Presidential Election 2019 will be free, fair and transparent in Kazakhstan because its government, nation and people all stand for a just political competition by meeting/matching all international standards institutionalized in the world. Kazakhstan is a democratic country and its system is functional and people’s friendly which will definitely further enhance its political system and national economy after the presidential elections 2019.

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