The Rising Star of Central Asia: Kazakhstan

After the collapse of Soviet Union, new countries have emerged in a geography that extends from the Baltic region in the west, through the Pacific Ocean in the East.

This region can be called as land of unknowns due to its isolated structure during the times of USSR. After the independence of these countries, new opportunities with new problems also appeared and this issue was widely discussed during 1990s both in intellectual and political circles.
 

Even though the Iron Curtain countries have become part of the European Union after a well conducted integration policy with regard to the region, Central Asian countries, a special case stuck between two superpowers like China and Russia and away from the western world in geographical sense, have followed a different way.
 

Being one of these countries located in the Central Asia, Kazakhstan with its 16 million population and a territory that is almost three and a half times larger than Turkey draws an increasing profile after becoming independent in 16 December 1991. Rising from the ashes of the Soviets, Kazakhstan’s people with their charismatic leader Nursultan Nazarbayev take important steps toward creating a modern country with its all institutions well integrated to world economy in the Heartland. 
Even though the population of the country when compared to its territory is so small, there is a staggering ethnic diversity in the country. It is said that the primary reason was the policy implemented during the Soviets of which many people with different ethnic origin were sent to exile to this region. Today, 50% of the population is composed of Kazakhs, around 30% by Russians and the remaining people comprise other ethnic identities.
 

Even though the population of the country when compared to its territory is so small, there is a staggering ethnic diversity in the country. It is said that the primary reason was the policy implemented during the Soviets of which many people with different ethnic origin were sent to exile to this region. Today, 50% of the population is composed of Kazakhs, around 30% by Russians and the remaining people comprise other ethnic identities. Mainly, the population lives in and around Almaty in the southern part of Kazakhstan. It was this city to be the first capital of the country and with all its institutions even today is a centre that continues to attract people. In 1998, Kazakhstan by taking a radical decision moved its capital from Almaty to Astana and in a way succeeded to create a centre of attraction to gather the people living in a dispersed manner in this region. The new capital with its skyscrapers and modern buildings, rising on its construction yard image, is running to be an important metropolis and a commercial centre in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) region.
 

¼br /> Economy and Energy
 


Average growth of Kazakhstan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been more than 9%[1][1] since 2001 and being in an increasing economic trend, its GDP per capita exceeded the level of $5000 in 2006.
 

Average growth of Kazakhstan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been more than 9%[1][1] since 2001 and being in an increasing economic trend, its GDP per capita exceeded the level of $5000 in 2006. When compared with the others in the region, Kazakhstan may be the most advantageous one with its rich mineral resources in the country. Especially hydrocarbon reserves as well as other resources like uranium, coal and iron have played a key role in Kazakhstan’s economic development and prosperity in the last decade. Holding 3.3%[2][2] of the world’s oil reserves and 1.7% of natural gas, Kazakhstan has the richest hydrocarbon reserves in the region just after Russia and these are mostly found in the Caspian Basin.
 

Energy giants like BP, Chevron, Italian ENI, CNPC (Chinese National Petroleum Company) and Lukoil plays an important role in the exploitation of the hydrocarbon resources of the country. Moreover, Kazakhstan’s national state owned company Kazmunaigas should be mentioned in this framework.
 

A significant amount of produced oil is transported via Russia to the western markets. Moreover, relatively a small amount around 2.2 million tones per year is transported to China in the East. There are two crucial main routes that go through Russia from Kazakhstan.  These are CPC (Caspian Pipeline Consortium) and Atyrau- Samara pipelines. The first one carries Kazakh oil since 2001 between Tengiz field and Russian port Novorossisk in the Black Sea, and the latter goes directly to the Russian city Samara and there linking to the world’s longest pipeline Druzhba (Frienship), reaches to western markets.
 

Following the Norwegian model, Kazakhstan established a development fund in 2006, for the utilization of the earned revenue from energy resources. It is aimed to maintain the economic stability and development of the country by using the accumulated money in the long term.
 

Turkey is also quite active in Kazakhstan. Since 1993, TPAO (Turkish Petroleum Corporation) operates in this country and takes a small role in its energy sector. In the mean time, Turkish businessmen successfully represent their country in the sectors such as tourism, marketing and construction, and realize big projects especially in Almaty and Astana. Most of the symbolic buildings and modern residences have been built by Turkish contractors in this country.¼br />  
Kazakhstan aftermath of the Majilis Elections
 

 
Since attaining its independence, Kazakhstan has taken vital steps towards democratization. In May 2007, constitutional amendments were adopted in the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This reform package includes, increasing the number of Majilis deputies from 77 to 107 and the number of appointed Senators.  The presidential mandate reduced from seven to five years (at the expiry of current term) and for the president it was permitted to engage in political party activities and the future composition of the Central Election Commission was altered.[3][3]¼br /> In the same package, Nurulstan Nazarbayev has been appointed as the lifetime president of Kazakhstan. In addition, the Presidential authority and the scope of power of the parliament were consolidated in certain areas.
 

Since attaining its independence, Kazakhstan has taken vital steps towards democratization. In May 2007, constitutional amendments were adopted in the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This reform package includes, increasing the number of Majilis deputies from 77 to 107 and the number of appointed Senators.  The presidential mandate reduced from seven to five years (at the expiry of current term) and for the president it was permitted to engage in political party activities and the future composition of the Central Election Commission was altered.[3][3]¼br /> In the same package, Nurulstan Nazarbayev has been appointed as the lifetime president of Kazakhstan. In addition, the Presidential authority and the scope of power of the parliament were consolidated in certain areas. After the passage of these amendments President dissolved the lower house of Parliament and called early elections for 18 August. Elections were monitored by the observers from Kazakhstan and other countries as well as international organizations like OSCE, ODIHR and Council of Europe. Being among the Turkish delegation, International Strategic Research Organization (ISRO) also monitored the elections closely. 

¼br /> According to the statements published by OSCE just after the elections and our observations, despite the existence of some problems, it is possible to say that election process was held in an environment that is more transparent, democratic and successful than the previous experiences.
 

It should be emphasized that both opposition parties and the government party, when compared to the past, enjoyed better media coverage for the party propaganda both in visual and printed media instruments in the pre-election period.
 

Voting process passed in a festival atmosphere in Kazakhstan. All citizens from every age and social groups came to polling stations to exercise their votes. There were musical and entertainment activities especially at the stations located in schools. Moreover, to promote democratic participation, small presents were being given to senior citizens and first comers by the election committee.
 

Despite some minor issues, elections can be defined a step forward toward democracy in Kazakhstan. Even though it was the summer time, the participation rate was %65. According to unofficial results, Nazarbayev’s party, Nur Otan, taking %88.05 of the votes has become the leading and the sole party to enter the parliament.
 

Seven parties ran for Majilis elections. Among these, ANSDP (Social Democrats) and Ak Zhol by receiving %4.62 and %3.27 of the votes have become the second and the third party respectively, but could not reach the threshold of %7 to enter the parliament. 

¼br /> Unification of pro-government parties before the elections, successfully conducted economic policy and the lack of charismatic leaders in the opposition parties are crucial factors that lie behind the election results.
 

It is glad to see that every election is more transparent, democratic and successful than the previous one. It should be noted that it has only been 15 years since Kazakhstan become independent and all its state organs are enthusiastic to contribute to the democratization process of the country and open to cooperation in this sense. It was a really good sign that authorities are ready to collaborate in every possible way during the elections. However, there remains a long way to go. Kazakhstan should continue its social, democratic and economic reforms; in particular, infrastructure projects and creating a well-qualified work force should be high on the agenda. In political sense, it was disappointing to both Kazakh authorities and international community that only one party, Nur Otan, succeeded to enter the. In the next term, the opposition should evaluate their policies carefully to be able to contribute the democratization process of Kazakhstan in the framework of a multi-party system.
Hasan Selim Ozertem


 

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