The “Leader of the Nation”
The defining figure of the independent Kazakhstan is Nursultan Nazarbayev (born July 6, 1940). As party leader of the KasSSR, he was first elected to the newly created office of president by the Supreme Soviet of the Union Republic in 1990 and was confirmed as the only candidate by the population in this office on December 1, 1991 and has held it continuously ever since (1995 extension of the term of office by referendum; 1999 and 2005 regular presidential elections, 2011 elections one year early). In February 2015 extremely short notice were again one year early elections announced for 26 April, 2015. As expected, the winner was called again Nursultan Nazarbayev (97.75% of the vote). His two rival candidates were unknown to the population and left no doubt that they believed the incumbent to be the better choice.
All elections were criticized by Western observers because opposing candidates were prevented or hindered and there were interventions in favor of Nazarbayev on election day. For a long time, the approval rates of the population were very high, as Nazarbayev was able to take up the cause of Kazakhstan’s economic boom, successful foreign policy and internal stability. However, its reputation has been shaken by the family economy, corruption scandals and growing intolerance of any criticism. His appointment as El Baschy (leader of the nation) by parliament in June 2010 must be seen as the first high point of something that has been growing steadily in Kazakhstan since then. Astana / Nur-Sultan airport has been named after the President since June 2017, and in November 2017 “Furmanova”, one of the main thoroughfares in the center of Almaty, was renamed Nazarbayev Street.
According to computerannals, since most Kazakhs and foreign observers did not expect a constitutional regulation of the succession under these conditions, speculation about possible candidates or political change has ruled for years. Triggered by the death of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who belonged to the same generation as Nazarbayev, these assumptions reached a climax in autumn 2016. All the more so when the President appointed his eldest daughter a Senator on September 13, 2016, and three days later she was appointed chairman of the Committee for International Relations, Defense and Security of this Chamber of Parliament. The early 2017 unusually fast solid constitutional amendments, were transferred by some powers from the President to the government and parliament are in connection with the settlement of his successor interpreted. Nazarbayev himself, however, did not show any sign of exhaustion. In July 2017, the conditions were tightened for future presidential candidates, including was at least five years of activity in the civil service requirement. The public speculation received in June 2018 the chairman of the Senate Kasym-Dchomart Tokayev, one of the most senior politicians in the country, new food, the public, the presumption expressed that Nazarbayev not at the next regular election for the highest public office in 2020 again will compete. In mid-February 2019, it was reported in all the country’s media that the Constitutional Council had decided upon request that the president had the right to resign. The declaration of withdrawal Nursultan Nazarbayev’s on March 19, 2019 was a step that was completely unexpected for the citizens of the country at the time, one that came as a shock even for his critics. Most people calmed down within a very short period of time – partly because it became clear that Nazarbayev would retain many relevant skills even in “retirement”. Meanwhile, it has been shown that he also actually exercises first president both domestically, as in foreign visits. In addition, in autumn 2019, Nazarbayev secured even more powers and influence for himself by officially confirming his right to fill important offices. He is awarded honorary degrees by Kazakhstan’s foreign policy allies downright showered.
Foreign observers viewed the first change of president through the resignation of the incumbent in Central Asia tended to be positive, but the fact that the capital was renamed Nur-Sultan quickly overshadowed this judgment in a negative direction. The change of office was used by various observers as an opportunity to take stock of the situation in Kazakhstan or to make a critical account of the Nazarbayev era or person / family. One can still assume that Kazakhstan is the Nazarbayev state, so the judgments were made accordinglyon the 1st anniversary of the resignation. All the more so since almost simultaneously members of the first President’s family came into the focus of the media again because of their wealth.