THE WAY FORWARD

Kazakhstan 2014 | DIPLOMACY | REVIEW: DIPLOMACY & POLITICS

Through a long-term vision, Kazakhstan aims to build upon its recognized stability in the region as well as develop relations with its neighbors through economic and diplomatic means.

Kazakhstan is seen as an oasis of stability in a complex region, as the country's oil and gas fields draw more attention to the ninth largest country in the world by area. To emphasize President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his government's ambitions to showcase Kazakhstan's abilities, the country has joined and participates in an increasing number of political and economic institutions, such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the UN, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Kazakhstan is also a prominent member in the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), an organization established in 2010 and an offshoot of the CIS. There are currently six full members consisting of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, with three observer members: Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine. A further improvement of relations occurred on May 29, 2014, with the signing of the Eurasian Economic Union, which included Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. The Union aims to eliminate tariffs between the countries through the establishment of a customs union, which should then in turn boost trade.

Kazakhstan has also turned its attention toward issues of nuclear safety through the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and its offer to host a nuclear fuel bank. When the Soviet Union fell apart, Kazakhstan inherited a sizeable portion of Russia's nuclear arsenal. However, it became one of the only countries in the world to give nuclear weapons up and embarked on a path of realizing a nuclear-weapon free world. The President, and country as a whole, have been strong proponents of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) control as a result of hosting one of the Soviet's main nuclear testing facilities, and witnessing the long-term health effects of having nuclear testing hosted on its territory.

DOMESTIC AFFAIRS

Kazakhstan's political system operates under the basis of a presidential republic. Elected by popular vote for a five-year term, the president is the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief. The president appoints the prime minister, deputy prime minister, and the council of ministers. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has held the position since the country gained independence in 1991, last winning re-election with a solid 95.55% of the vote in April 2011. The closest opponent, Ghani Qasymov of the Patriots Party, took 1.94% of the vote. The next election is planned to take place in 2016.

The legislative branch of the country is the Parliament, or Majilis, composed of an upper and lower house. The Senate, acting as the upper house, contains 47 members, most of whom are elected for terms of six years. In addition to the cities of Astana and Almaty, each of the country's 14 provinces are represented by two senators, which are selected by local assemblies. Since 2007, the law requires that 15 senators be appointed directly by the president. The responsibilities of the Senate include the appointment and removal from office of heads of state organs, including the president of the Supreme Court, governor of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, the attorney general, and the chairman of the National Security Committee. The Senate can also act as the lower house should the Majilis be dismissed prematurely.

The Majilis consists of 107 deputies, with 98 elected by popular vote through a secret ballot. The Assembly of the People elects the remaining nine deputies, who serve terms of five years. Majilis elections are held no later than two months before the expiration of the incumbent parliament. The last parliamentary elections were held in 2012, with the ruling Nur Otan party taking 83 of the 98 available seats with 80.99% of the vote, the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan Ak Zhol at 7.47%, and the Communist People's Party taking 7.19%. For the first time in the country's election history, during the 2012 elections the second place party would be able to take parliamentary seats irrespective of whether they met the 7% electoral threshold. The powers allocated to the Majilis include approving the presidential appointment of the prime minister and taking into consideration legislative proposals.

During the 2011 presidential elections, there was a reported turnout of approximately 90% of eligible voters. It was an electoral landslide for the Nur Otan party, which took home 95.55% of the vote, while the Patriots Party took 1.94%, the Communists People's Party 1.36%, and the Tabighat 1.15%. The judicial branch of the government is made up of 44 judges who preside over the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan and collaborate with the seven members of the Constitutional Council. In terms of local government, Kazakhstan is divided into 16 administrative regions, or 14 provinces and two cities: Almaty and Astana. The president appoints the heads of councils that are directly elected for four-year terms and are responsible for the administration of the provinces. The councils also apply national policies on a local level, and coordinate these policies with the individual needs of each region. The president is empowered to cancel or suspend the acts of the councils—a system that makes local government directly subordinate to the president.

STRATEGIES

As shown by the number of international organizations Kazakhstan participates in, the country is interested in expanding this network. Announced in late 2012, the President's Strategy Kazakhstan-2050 is a new political course adopted by the government, with the long-term aim of developing the economic, social, and political spheres of the country. The overall aim of the strategy has three main aspects. The first is in regard to budgetary policy, whereby the government will implement national projects related to diversification and the building of infrastructure. The second focus is on the country's tax policy. The strategy hopes to stimulate internal growth, increase exports, and encourage individual saving and investments through a simplified tax and customs administration. The government also plans to introduce new tax benefits for those involved in production, new technologies, and other specialized areas. The final focus will be geared around monetary and debt policy. The central bank and the government will manage inflation while also encouraging economic growth. One of the main targets will also be to reduce public and quasi-public debt as well as reduce the budget deficit to 1.5% of GDP by 2015 from 2.1% in 2013. As the government steers it decision making toward developing the three main pillars of the Kazakhstan Strategy 2050, there are also a further seven priorities that it will also keep in mind. The seven focus areas cover democracy and foreign policy, economic policy, education, energy, entrepreneurship, industrialization, and social policies. The strategy is split into two phases, the first of which will run up to 2030, while the second will take the country up to 2050. By 2030, the President hopes that the country will witness a modernization leap similar to that what South Korea or Singapore have experienced over the last 50 years. It also hope that there will be significant growth in industry, specifically that of traditional industries as well as the introduction of a new processing industrial sector.