What New Reforms in Kazakhstan Suggest About a Future Political Transition

What New Reforms in Kazakhstan Suggest About a Future Political Transition
Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting, St. Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 26, 2016 (AP photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

Kazakhstan’s parliament has approved reforms that would decentralize power in the Central Asian nation, potentially giving parliament and the Cabinet more control over key duties such as managing the economy. In an email interview, Marlene Laruelle, director of the Central Asia program at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, discusses what the reforms could mean for President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled since the fall of the Soviet Union.

World Politics Review: What might the decision to devolve some presidential powers mean for Nazarbayev's political future?

Marlene Laruelle: Nazarbayev has announced political reforms at various points in the past, and so far democratization has yet to occur, so we should remain cautious when considering this latest move. However, it seems obvious that this is part of some kind of succession strategy, both in terms of preparing the public and in terms of redistributing power among elites once the “first president” leaves the scene.

There are several objectives for these reforms. First, they could make it possible for Nazarbayev to leave power while still alive. He would then enjoy his status as a “leader of the nation”—which was formally conferred by law in 2010—and devote his final years to burnishing his international image, much in the manner of Mikhail Gorbachev. Second, if he were to die in office, the reforms would cement Nazarbayev as a transformative figure in the history of Kazakhstan, one who was leading the country toward a more democratic system at the time of his death.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review