Early Parliamentary Elections to Advance Reforms, Safeguard Nation’s Progress

We have not reached the end of January, but it is already clear that 2016 is going to be another challenging year for the global economy. World stock markets made their worst start in two decades, reflecting concerns about global growth and political uncertainty.

Currencies have also been very volatile while the price of oil has witnessed further falls over worries about both future demand and supply. Hopes for a happier and more stable New Year have not started well. Instead President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s prediction a year ago that the world economy was again heading back into dangerous waters seems, by the week, more prescient.

The political background is hardly more re-assuring. January has seen new terrorist outrages and innocent lives lost in support of extremists’ perverted ideology. As we have said before, at a time when there is a desperate need for cooperation on the international stage, it is a deep concern that relations between global and regional powers remain fractured and, in some cases, have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.

In such periods of uncertainty, it is important to think clearly and act decisively. Before the global economic crisis worsened, Kazakhstan was already taking the necessary steps to safeguard progress. They will provide a critical framework in the months ahead to help protect the economy and citizens from the worst impact of these global forces.

It is also, of course, important when there are storms to have an experienced hand at the helm. By bringing forward the presidential elections to last April, the country was given the chance to choose the leadership they wanted. The resounding vote of confidence given to President Nazarbayev was not just a recognition of his role in driving Kazakhstan forward since independence but gave him the mandate for the difficult choices and months ahead.

For the same reasons, there is sense in speeding up the timetable for Kazakh parliamentary elections, which, by law, are due to be held no later than November 2016. President Nazarbayev has already heard high-level calls to bring forward the election to this earliest possible date, including by the Mazhilis deputies themselves who voted unanimously Jan. 13 for an early election. On Jan. 18, President Nazarbayev already held consultations with speakers of both houses of Parliament and the prime minister, as well as the chair of the Constitutional Court and his decision is expected soon.

Parliamentary leaders have said that, by putting in place the legislation, some 80 laws and regulations, that the reform programme needed, they have fulfilled their role. Early elections would remove uncertainty and would allow the government and new parliament to give its full attention to not only the challenges also the opportunities facing the country.

The country needs to have an open debate about the direction Kazakhstan is taking. It, therefore, should be welcomed that numerous political parties are likely to take part in the election, including Nur Otan People’s Democratic Party, Ak Zhol Democratic Party, Communist People’s Party, People’s Patriotic Party Auyl (Agrarians), Nationwide Social Democratic Party, and Birlik (Unity) Party. Each has their own vision for the country. Some are critical of the government and may put forward their own ideas about how our nation should be run. It will be up to the people of Kazakhstan to decide who they want to lead the country forward.

For 2016 is also a year which could be memorable for Kazakhstan as well.We will, for example, learn whether we have been successful in our bid to become the first country from Central Asia to sit on the UN Security Council.

Given its increasingly important role in the world, it is strange that there has yet been no representative from the region to help shape the global response to international challenges. By taking one of the non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council, Kazakhstan can provide the experience and perspective that has so far been missing from its deliberations.

Success would also be a fitting recognition of the strong moral and increasingly practical support that Kazakhstan has given to the UN and its missions and our determination, through both foreign policy and example, to promote peace, dialogue and co-operation. From the very first days as an independent country, Kazakhstan has worked hard to be a positive force within the international community. Indeed, the historic closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site took place in August 1991 before the country had gained full independence.

It is, of course, all that has been achieved over the last 25 years that will be celebrated in December. Our 25th anniversary will be a major highpoint in 2016. It will provide the chance for our citizens, and our international partners who have been with us every step of the way, to celebrate how the prosperity and well-being of our people has been transformed, how a stable and harmonious society has been built and how Kazakhstan has become a respected partner on the international stage.

Few outside commentators would have believed in 1991 that such progress would be possible. These may be challenging days for the world but, with hard work and good leadership, Kazakhstan has shown it has overcome much bigger difficulties in its short but remarkable history as a modern nation. The early parliamentary elections, if confirmed, will be another step towards the development of our young, but thriving nation.

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