Today is a proud day for Kazakhstan. In the midst of uncertain times for the country, the region and the world economy, the people of Kazakhstan have again demonstrated their unity and the strength of our government. More importantly, the people of Kazakhstan have exercised their democratic right peacefully.
There may be some who criticise our elections. While it is always wise to listen to constructive criticism from friends, we must remember how far we have come as a nation. Today we can be proud that the elections were open, transparent and fair.
Elections in Kazakhstan require enormous logistics. More than nine million of our citizens voted all around our vast country in 9,741 voting stations. Despite all the difficulties, the April 26 election was essential.
As we have seen many times, challenging times require bold decisions. As we move ahead, it is likely more hard choices will have to be made to both guide Kazakhstan successfully through the trials and keep the country on course to reach its long-term goal of joining the ranks of the top 30 global economies by 2050. Against this background, it is easy to see why the call to bring forward the scheduled presidential election from 2016 to this year has received such widespread support.
The call, originally made by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan which represents the interests of the country’s ethnic groups, received backing from both chambers of Parliament and many other groups. The Constitutional Council then confirmed it.
It is clear why an early election was in the national interest. It will give the President and the new Government that he will appoint a fresh and clear mandate as the country grapples with the complex challenges we now face. Now the campaign is over, we can enjoy complete focus from the Government on guiding the country through these short-term dangers. We can trust that the right long-term decisions will continue to be made for Kazakhstan’s future.
The first exit polls showed that the incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev recorded another massive victory, gaining 97.5 percent of the popular vote (according to the Institute of Democracy), which has also seen an unprecedented turnout of 95.11 percent.
President Nazarbayev has always been the clear favourite to win another term. His popularity, as demonstrated not just by election results but also by independent polls, remains very high across the country. Kazakh citizens rightly value his success not only in delivering economic growth and rising living standards but also in helping create a stable and successful country where peoples of so many different backgrounds live in an often-troubled part of the world.
President Nazarbayev is the right man at the right time. The dramatic fall in the global price of oil – with the expected reduction in revenues – is affecting all oil-producing countries. The world economy has still not recovered from the great financial crisis. The Euro-zone, Kazakhstan’s biggest trading partner, is still in trouble, too.
Confidence in the global economy has also been hit by an increase in geo-political threats and tensions. We have seen a breakdown in relations between East and West. The crisis in Ukraine has seen economic sanctions imposed which have a damaging knock-on impact. Russia’s currency has fallen sharply in value and its economy has been hit.
So at a time when the global prospects are so uncertain and Kazakhstan faces many short-term challenges, the country decided President Nazarbayev’s experience and leadership remain vital to its future. It was the people of Kazakhstan who showed up in record numbers to make that call. They made the right one.