The outcome of a presidential election can have a major impact on the direction of any country, as well as on its involvement in regional and global affairs. The winning president sets a new agenda for government and initiates long-term strategies and priorities, which can have an effect that lasts for decades. Indeed, Kazakhstan’s First President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, made a long-lasting impact on the country through long-term strategies and initiatives, such as Kazakhstan 2050, the Nurly Zhol (Bright Path) infrastructure development programme, and, of course, by successfully making Nur-Sultan (then called Astana) the capital city of Kazakhstan back in 1997.
On June 9, the people of Kazakhstan will elect a president who will set a new course for the country that will influence all aspects of Kazakhstan’s development.
First of all, the decisions made by the new head of state can influence Kazakhstan’s economy and investment climate, therefore, impacting foreign investors and businesspeople around the world. As is well known, since independence, our country has created a genuinely favourable climate for investors, which has resulted in Kazakhstan becoming the top investment destination in the region.
This was achieved through concrete investment incentives, such as a visa-free regime for many countries, the establishment of special economic zones, which offer investors zero percent rate for corporate income tax, land tax and property tax, as well as exemption from customs duties. Foreign investors clearly welcome these measures. During the recent Astana Economic Forum (AEF) two weeks ago, 43 commercial contracts worth almost $9 billion were signed. Among the sectors included in the deals were transport and logistics, mining and metallurgy, healthcare and education.
Speaking at the AEF, Risto Siilasmaa, chair of the Board of Directors of Nokia, noted the “energy of transformation” in the country. He and other business leaders and foreign investors will be hoping that this transformation, backed by measures to further improve the investment climate in Kazakhstan, will continue after the election. For this reason, they are closely monitoring the election campaign and analysing the impact the candidates may have on the investment climate in Kazakhstan.
The inauguration of the election winner will not just be an important moment for Kazakhstan’s citizens and its foreign investors, but also for our neighbours and further afield for countries all across the globe.
As is well known, the long period of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s presidency was marked by Kazakhstan’s active involvement in global affairs. As well as our country’s recent non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council and our role as chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Kazakhstan has also been a global leader in the movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons and the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime. In addition, Kazakhstan made a significant contribution towards helping find a settlement of the Syrian crisis through the Astana Process by providing a platform for negotiations between the Syrian government, the armed opposition and the guarantor states.
Such initiatives were only possible thanks to then President Nazarbayev’s decision to make Kazakhstan a neutral and active contributor to the resolution of global crises. We have witnessed recently how some leaders of nations are making a decision to play a lesser role in international affairs. Kazakhstan’s incoming president will also have a choice to either continue with Kazakhstan’s active foreign policy or to look inwards. Given Kazakhstan’s positive role on the world stage, countries and their leaders will be hoping that they will be able to continue to rely on Kazakhstan to be a helpful mediator in global issues.
Ultimately, the upcoming presidential election will have an important bearing on Kazakhstan’s development and the country’s relationship with the world. This is why the topic was frequently brought up at the Astana Economic Forum and will continue to be discussed among international diplomatic and business circles right up until the day of the election.