Voting during Kazakhstan's 2021 parliamentary election in Nur-Sultan. Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images.

The highly-controlled elections to Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament (Majlis) have produced a distribution of seats almost identical to the previous parliament, with ruling party Nur Otan — still under the chairmanship of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev — remaining firmly in charge.

The elections were the first since 80-year-old Nazarbayev yielded his position after nearly 30 years in power to his own hand-picked successor Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev. The leadership’s need for control and wariness of electoral protests is unsurprising in light of the unusual spate of anti-government rallies that took place when Nazarbayev passed the presidential reins in 2019, and the recent post-election demonstrations in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kazakh Majilis Chairman Nurlan Nigmatulin and ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev at an inauguration ceremony in parliament. Photo: Pavel Aleksandrov\TASS via Getty Images.

Leaders of the resource-rich Central Asian region have the propensity to remain in power until mortality dictates otherwise. Much like the UK and Brexit, however, few wanted to see Central Asia’s longest reigning ruler, Kazakhstan’s septuagenarian president Nursultan Nazarbayev, crash out without a deal.

The sudden departure of the country’s official leader of the nation with no clear succession plan could have led to investment chaos, intra-elite fighting and the unravelling in a matter of months of a system he had built over decades, à la Uzbekistan following the death of long-serving autocrat Islam Karimov in 2016.

In order to avoid just such a ‘no-deal’ scenario and ensure the continuity of his policies, in March Nazarbayev carefully choreographed his own resignation and the election of a hand-picked successor, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, while retaining plum positions and powers for himself.…  Seguir leyendo »

Fue un taxista de Toledo el que le explicó al diputado kazajo Beirut B. Manrayev, vicepresidente para relaciones culturales, el significado de la expresión española “ojalá” y su origen. El sentido, más allá de la rápida traducción al inglés por “wish”, le sedujo tanto que a mediados de agosto la citó en la capital kazaja, Nursultán, durante una cena con 15 periodistas de todo el mundo. Invitados por el Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, la comitiva formaba parte de una estrategia que impulsa desde hace años el gobierno del país euroasiático en su lucha contra el desconocimiento que rodea a su nación.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the only leader Kazakhstan had known since the country gained independence nearly 30 years ago, resigned March 19. During his televised announcement, the longtime autocrat noted his government’s shortcomings in addressing economic problems and expressed desire for a new generation of leadership. Kazakhstan emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as an independent state but remained tightly controlled by its Communist-era leader, who had served on Mikhail Gorbachev’s leadership council.

The country has scheduled a snap election on June 9 to formally elect Nazarbayev’s successor. But leadership change in a dictatorship can often be a difficult, even dangerous, process.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Although there were some signs of a looming transition of power, Nazarbayev’s resignation caught many by surprise. Importantly, he followed constitutional procedure to the letter and for the first time in 20 years, did not push for snap elections.

This enforces the legitimacy of his temporary successor and launches the succession process, proof that he chose evolutionary development for Kazakhstan rather than revolutionary.

Nazarbayev’s authority and ability to govern effectively had waned over the last couple of years. With rising political disaffection and an uncertain economic outlook related to the oil price, stagnant growth and inflationary tendencies, it is possible that the president decided to leave in case the situation deteriorated.…  Seguir leyendo »

A firefighter boat takes part in an exercise for the rescue services of the Caspian littoral states. Photo: Getty Images.

After 21 years of negotiations, the littoral countries of the Caspian Sea – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan - are apparently close to agreeing the sea’s legal status. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the text of a convention on delimitation was settled at a December meeting with his four counterparts. According to Lavrov, the Caspian presidents will meet in the first half of 2018 in Astana to finally sign.

Russia has been trying a change of tack. Rather than carrying out unwieldy five-sided negotiations, President Vladimir Putin now seems to be favouring bilateral and trilateral approaches. This may be yielding results beyond mere carving up of the sea: Russia has had more effective and flexible separated dialogue with neighbouring countries, based on common interests with each of them, but which are not necessarily shared by all five countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

Without much ado, Kazakhstan adopted a new military doctrine in September, replacing a 2011 document that had become dated. The new document states that Kazakhstan does not have enemies. Yet, Astana seems alarmed enough by Russia’s aggressive actions toward Ukraine since 2014 to have produced a doctrine that is an obvious reaction to Moscow’s hybrid warfare tactics, which include cyber-disruption and propaganda.

Kazakhstan is not alone in sensing that it now lives in a rapidly changing security environment that demands new policies. Belarus, another neighbor of Russia, introduced a new military doctrine in July 2016. But while Belarus made explicit that it is reacting to Ukraine’s fight against Russian-backed separatists and Moscow’s use of hybrid warfare, Kazakhstani authorities have not commented publicly on changes to their military doctrine.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un estado joven en un mundo incierto

A mediados de noviembre, Kazajstán fue sede del tercer "Club Astaná" anual, una nueva plataforma independiente e imparcial para el diálogo entre líderes empresariales, políticos, representantes de medios y otros expertos internacionales sobre las "cuestiones críticas que afectan a todos los países de Eurasia". El evento encarnó la política exterior de Kazajstán en los últimos veinte años, en un momento en el que esa política va camino a enfrentar pruebas sin precedentes.

Los participantes en el Club Astaná de este año eran tan diversos como de alto perfil. Entre ellos había representantes de los principales grupos de expertos de Europa, Asia, Estados Unidos y Oriente Medio; ex presidentes, como Abdullah Gül de Turquía y Danilo Türk de Eslovenia; la ex comisionada europea Benita Ferrero-Waldner; el miembro del parlamento indio Shashi Tharoor; y el CEO de Channel One Russia, Konstantin Ernst.…  Seguir leyendo »

Availability of Youtube.com as of May 2016. May be incomplete or incorrect due to lack of information. SurrogateSlav/Wikimedia, CC BY-NC

US president Donald Trump, who gets on Twitter the moment he wakes up, may be social media’s most prominent politician user, but he is hardly the only one. For the past two decades, world leaders have leveraged the power of the internet to communicate with the public. In some nations, digital tools are part of an effort to increase government transparency and accountability. In others, they are a platform for propaganda, censorship and fake news.

The Conversation Global’s series Politics in the Age of Social Media examines the varied ways that governments around the world rely on digital tools to exercise power.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protests in April and May galvanised the government to crack down on dissent. Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

In Kazakhstan, the power of citizens to resist authoritarianism has been dealt a significant blow. On November 28, two major Kazakh land activists, Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayanov, were sentenced to five years in prison on charges of organising unsanctioned protests and inciting social discord.

Bokayev and Ayanov were arrested following large-scale land protests in the country in April and May. Normally very cautious, in this instance, the regime failed to spot the potential threat of online activism in time, and therefore let protests unfold.

The jailing of the two men shows the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev well understands that it can no longer underestimate the power of new forms of civic activism.…  Seguir leyendo »

Try as he might, playwright George Bernard Shaw could not find a bad thing to say about Stalin’s Soviet Union. The workers? Not downtrodden at all, he wrote after a 1933 trip, but hopeful and enthusiastic. As for the purges of Stalin’s critics: “They often have to be pushed off the ladder with a rope around their necks.”

Blinkered liberals — not just Shaw but the likes too of Beatrice Webb — were useful to the tyrant in Moscow. They created a fog around Stalin’s intentions, muffled protest, justified inaction.

Today wealthy and corrupt autocratic leaders in the central Asian republics, Russia’s backyard, are performing a similar whitewash: they are signing up former statesmen (and not just Tony Blair), commissioning hagiographies and paying top dollar to western PR companies to rebrand their image.…  Seguir leyendo »

A study in nuclear contrast

Astudy in contrast: North Korea is killing itself to get an atomic bomb; Kazakhstan is rich because it gave its nukes away.

Pyongyang rattled the world on Sept. 9 with its fifth nuclear in bomb test, and a few days later Astana, Kazakhstan got bouquets from lawmakers in Washington marking the 25th anniversary of that nation shutting down its mega-toxic atomic bomb test site.

Twenty years after giving its nuclear-tipped missiles back to Mother Russia and giving its “wealth” of lethal plutonium to Uncle Sam for safekeeping, Kazakhstan is the richest nation in Central Asia, whereas the gulag state of North Korea is a hell hole of famine and fear.…  Seguir leyendo »

Si no se controla, la toma por parte de Rusia de los puntos clave de Crimea será sólo el primer paso para cambiar el mapa de Eurasia. El argumento de Vladímir Putin de la necesidad de usar la fuerza militar para proteger a los ciudadanos de Rusia y a toda la “población de habla rusa” es de mal agüero. Hay que leerlo como una advertencia de que el presidente de Rusia quiere dar la vuelta a lo que él dice que fueron dos de las grandes catástrofes del siglo XX: la caída del imperio ruso y la desintegración de la Unión Soviética.…  Seguir leyendo »

Fifty plainclothes Italian special agents raided a villa on the outskirts of Rome on May 29 and absconded with Alma Shalabayeva and her 6-year old daughter, Alua. Two days later, after uncharacteristically swift legal proceedings, mother and daughter were whisked away to Kazakhstan, a resource-rich former Soviet state in Central Asia.

While Shalabayeva and her daughter are Kazakh citizens, both had European Union residence permits, issued by Latvia, allowing them to stay anywhere in the E.U. Italy has an estimated 440,000 illegal immigrants, many of whom are presumably more dangerous than Shalabayeva and whose cases typically take some time to resolve.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tema: La visita del ministro de Asuntos Exteriores kazajo en mayo de 2013 se encuadra en el deseo de fortalecer las relaciones entre Kazajistán y España en todos los campos.

Resumen: Kazajistán es un país de amplio potencial de explotación económica y como mercado para los productos españoles que viene respaldado por unas buenas relaciones diplomáticas y por una seguridad jurídica superior a la de otros escenarios tradicionales de expansión de las empresas españolas. La Estrategia Kazajistán 2050 y la celebración en Astana de la Expo 2017 suponen una ventana de oportunidades para los intereses españoles.


La importancia de Kazajistán

Cuando en 1991 las repúblicas socialistas soviéticas comenzaron a abandonar la URSS, el futuro político y económico de aquel vasto territorio era una gran incógnita.…  Seguir leyendo »

The threat from nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest our world faces. If terrorist groups manage to get their hands on material to make nuclear or radioactive weapons, they will not hesitate to use them. The resulting death toll and damage would be unimaginable.

The security of nuclear materials was high on the agenda of the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010. This week, along with President Obama and the leaders of 50 other countries, I will be traveling to Seoul for the second summit to report on progress. We will see how we can further improve measures to keep safe nuclear material and to stop its illegal trade.…  Seguir leyendo »

This is a holiday season the people of Kazakhstan will not soon forget. On Dec. 16 security forces in the western city of Zhanaozen killed and wounded hundreds of unarmed demonstrators, mostly striking oil workers, occupying a public square. Officials claim only 15 people died but reports from local people — impossible to confirm — say the death toll was higher. A startling video on YouTube — blacked out in Kazakhstan — shows police firing on fleeing civilians.

The incident, coming after a long period of relative stability, presents Western policy makers with difficult choices. People in Kazakhstan who seek greater freedom look to Washington and European capitals for support, but the West has soft-pedaled human rights concerns because of other important interests — from energy production to the elimination of nuclear and biological weapons to the transit of vital NATO supplies to Afghanistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the “victor” in Kazakhstan’s recent presidential election with 95 percent of the vote, claimed on this page April 1 that his country has a democratic destiny. Unfortunately, Nazarbayev’s record as president since his country gained independence in 1991 shows that Kazakhstan is moving away from, not closer to, a democratic system of government. Indeed, the profound disconnect between reality in Kazakhstan and Nazarbayev’s assertions resembles other authoritarian regimes where leaders seek to wrap themselves in some form of democratic legitimacy.

Take the April 3 snap election, which was devoid of any real choice, much as in the days of Soviet rule.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last Sunday, in another election with no genuine opponents, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan won in a landslide. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe cited “serious irregularities.” Like the deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, Nazarbayev has lifted the economy and public expectations but is vulnerable to resentment over corruption, a toxic brew.

In 1989, two years prior to the Soviet collapse, when Nazarbayev was Kazakhstan’s leader, a public movement was allowed to emerge to demand closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing site where over 450 nuclear tests had left deep scars. This made it easier for Nazarbayev to later close the site, to popular acclaim.…  Seguir leyendo »

En los tiempos que nos toca vivir las amenazas son cambiantes y peor definidas que en el mundo dividido en bloques de la guerra fría. Y éstas se aprovechan de la permeabilidad de las fronteras y de la capacidad de las nuevas tecnologías de la comunicación. Hoy ningún país puede garantizar por sí mismo la protección total de sus ciudadanos y de sus intereses estratégicos.

Razón de más para justificar una Europa unida a la que el Tratado de Lisboa da nuevos instrumentos para desarrollar su política exterior. Pero hemos tardado mucho tiempo en conseguirlo. Y han emergido nuevos actores que hace poco eran desconocidos o inexistentes, cuya influencia geopolítica es mucho más grande de lo que imaginamos.…  Seguir leyendo »