The decision of Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev to cede the chairmanship of the ruling party Nur Otan to current President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is a part of a long and sophisticated political process. This process is democratic in nature and aims to ensure the smooth transition of power to younger generations of Kazakhstan’s leaders without upheavals or uncertainties. Such was the verdict of the world’s most knowledgeable and responsible observers to the news about Nazarbayev’s decision.
In a nutshell, the observers generally agree with the assessment that came from Talgat Kaliyev, a leading member of the National Council of Public Trust under the President of Kazakhstan. “This is a part of the very consequential plan, which the First President Nazarbayev started to implement back in 2019,” the Russian agency RIA Novosti quoted Kaliyev as saying. “Since Kazakhstan is only developing the tradition of peaceful transfer of power, the implementation of the plan will take several years.”
Indeed, the observers note, since the victory of Tokayev at the presidential elections in 2019, the reins of power were gradually transferred to him, as Tokayev showed himself to be a responsible, far-sighted, modernizing leader.
“The amazing thing about Nazarbayev is his ability to learn from various sources, adapting the best practices from East and West to Kazakhstan’s realities,” said Andranik Migranyan, a professor of the Russian diplomatic university MGIMO and one of Russia’s most respected political scientists. “Nazarbayev learnt from the experience of Den Xiaoping in China and from European democracies, where the institution of “political heirs” has been in place for many years. The purpose of transition is pragmatic: to make the transfer of power gradual, so that the First President of the nation would not leave the political system, but rather step aside, retaining the ability to correct the ongoing processes.“
Alexander Artamonov, a graduate of the University of Paris and currently a prominent political analyst at Zvezda TV (Moscow) noted that the political system, created by Nazarbayev, has a lot in common with the French presidential republic (the fifth Republic, as the French call it). In France, it is regarded as one of the late President de Gaulle’s most precious legacies.
“The system where the strong president stands at the center of the political system, where special emphasis is made on preservation of ancestral heritage and the greatness of the multiethnic political nation – this is exactly the system that Charles de Gaulle tried to create,” said Artamonov who had lived in France for 29 years. “The specialty of Kazakhstan is that here the country did not have the same long tradition of sovereignty and self-sufficiency which France had had when de Gaulle came to power in 1958. So, Nazarbayev had to move forward cautiously, testing every stone he put his foot on, while crossing the river, as the Chinese saying goes. But now the process of the transfer of power seems to be almost complete. Many French would never admit it, but I see similarities here, which are impossible to ignore.”
It should be noted that, whatever the critics say, Nazarbayev’s system works. Reforms in Kazakhstan have been universally acknowledged as the most successful in the former Soviet Union. And Nur Otan, which was founded in 1999, has become a powerful modern political force. With the transfer of its chairmanship to President Tokayev there is one more reason to believe in its future.
The author is Dmitry Babich, a Moscow-based journalist with 30 years of experience of covering global politics, a frequent guest on BBC, Al Jazeera and RT.