President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan has called an early presidential election, to be held on June 9 this year. Mr Tokayev assumed the office of the presidency only a month ago, on 20 March, following the surprise resignation of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
“We need to clear up any ambiguity, in order to ensure public and political accord, confidently move ahead and settle any outstanding issues related to our socio-economic development,” announced Mr Tokayev in a special presidential address last week. “This can only be done through the direct expression of the will of the people, through a presidential election.”
Before Mr Tokayev’s surprise accession to the presidency, Kazakhstan had never had any leader other than Mr Nazarbayev, an internationally respected politician who successfully guided the country through significant economic reforms following Kazakhstan’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Among other notable achievements, he gave up the country’s nuclear arsenal (inherited from the former Soviet Union), closed nuclear test sites, and devoted significant efforts toward promoting international nuclear disarmament.
He also repeatedly voiced his concern about the possibility of a global military confrontation between nuclear-armed world powers, and offered Kazakhstan as a platform for meetings between the leaders of the US, Russia, China and the EU.
“As the President of Kazakhstan for almost 30 years, President Nazarbayev has driven forward modernisation reforms, including constitutional reforms. He has played an important role in promoting cooperation both regionally and globally, with a particular emphasis on promoting peace, stability and security,” a spokeswoman for the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after Nazarbayev’s resignation.
Kazakhstan, which remains a key partner for the EU in the region, was also the first Central Asian country to sign an ‘Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement’ with the EU. As well as being the first foreign investor in Kazakhstan, the EU is now also Kazakhstan’s largest trade partner.
“In line with the constitution of Kazakhstan and its commitment to international standards, we look forward to a credible and inclusive presidential election which respects the will of the Kazakh people,” the EU’s delegation in Kazakhstan said in a statement released last week.
The statement continued: “Relations between the European Union and the Republic of Kazakhstan are based on our common values and commitment to strengthen the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights, the respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance.”