Kazakhstan is a country located in the region of Central Asia. On March 19, 2019, became a water divider in Kazakh politics when the authoritarian president Nursultan Nazarbayev unexpectedly announced his departure after almost 30 years in power. Kazakhstan had then struggled with economic problems and social unrest for five years. As a successor, Nazarbayev hand-picked the diplomat Kasym-Zyomart Tokayev, but made sure to retain great powers of power himself.
Nazarbayev had been Kazakhstan’s president since his departure since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Over the years, he became more dominant and periodically ruled the country through decrees.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Kazakhstan, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
A few months before his departure, in February 2019, he kicked off his entire government, which he felt underperformed in the fight against the economic problems. He instead gave the government-forming assignment to Askar Mamin, who had previously been the first Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Transport and Communications and Mayor of Astana (23 March 2019 renamed Nursultan to honor Nazarbayev).
During the 2010s, several of Nazarbayev’s relatives received high positions in politics and government. Among these are the son-in-law Timur Kulibayev, who is also the country’s richest man, as well as Nazarbayev’s daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva. Many observers believe that Nazarbayev is trying to create a political dynasty that will last after him.
In the Legislative Parliament there are only regime-loyal parties, and the president’s party, the Fatherland’s light, dominates greatly. The real opposition is fragmented and weakened by the systematic opposition of the government.
The time after Nazarbayev
Nazarbayev gave no reason for his sudden departure. Tokayev first became acting president and then resigned from his post as chairman of the Senate. He was replaced at that post by the president’s daughter Nazarbayeva. At the same time, Nazarbayev retained the title of Nation Leader, the Presidency of the Fatherland Light and the Presidency of the mighty Security Council.
Tokayev became the regular president in a June 9 election in which he won 71 percent of the vote. According to critics, the election was settled in advance and protest demonstrations were held before Election Day. Tokayev was seen by many as Nazarbayev’s puppet; the president had openly expressed his support for Tokayev. In total, nearly 1,000 people were later sentenced to prison or other sentences for participating in demonstrations against the election.
According to OSCE election observers, the election did not meet international standards, partly because of the lack of respect for fundamental rights, mainly during the arrests of peaceful protesters, and partly because of extensive irregularities in the voting process. However, Tokayev thanked the police for the strike against the protesters, whom he believed were ruled by regime opponents in exile.
Terrorism and counterterrorism
During the 2010 century, Kazakhstan suffered a number of terrorist attacks; in the cities of Aqtöbe, Atiraw and Taraz in 2011 and again in Atiraw 2012. New terrorist acts were carried out in 2016 in Aqtöbe and Almaty. The attacks led to the tightening of the law for the registration of religious communities in 2011, and a number of communities were deregistered (see Religion). Through constitutional changes in 2017, it became possible to deprive a person of citizenship of being convicted of terrorist offenses.
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FACTS – POLITICS
Qazaqstan Republic / Kazakhstan Republic
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev (2019–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Askar Manin (2019–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
The Fatherland’s Light 84, The Bright Road 7, Communist Party 7 (2016)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
The Fatherland Light 83, The Light Road 8, Communist Party 7 (2012)
77% in the 2016 parliamentary elections, 77.5% in the 2019 presidential elections
parliamentary elections 2021, presidential elections 2024
Several newspapers and web sites are banned
A number of newspapers and websites are stamped by a court that is extremist and banned. Several of them have been funded by the fugitive oligarch and regime opponent Muchtar Abljazov.
Prison sentences after the oil strike
A number of local government officials in Zhanganga are sentenced to two to twelve years in prison for abuse of power and corruption in the aftermath of the violence during the oil strike in the city (see December 2011).
Tighter rules for religious communities
President Nazarbayev signs a law that forces all religious communities and groups to dissolve and then re-register (see Religion). The new law also prohibits prayer in workplaces.
Opposition politicians are imprisoned
Vladimir Kozlov from the unofficial opposition party Alga is sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for trying to overthrow the government. He is accused of inciting violence in Zhangzhou (see December 2011) but claims the verdict is political.
Change of prime minister
Prime Minister Kärim Mäsimov leaves his post after almost six years. Instead, he is appointed Chief of Staff at President Nazarbayev’s office. Former Minister of Transport and Deputy Prime Minister Serik Achmetov are appointed as new Head of Government.
Prison for striking oil workers
Thirteen people are sentenced to imprisonment for a maximum of seven years for crimes committed in connection with the oil workers strike in December 2011.
Trials are initiated in the wake of the oil strike
A number of people who in various ways participated in the big oil workers strike in Zhanganga (see December 2011) are brought to justice. In addition to the oil workers, the defendants also include opposition journalists, politicians and cultural workers.
About 50 are sentenced to prison for explosion
Forty-seven people are sentenced to between 5 and 15 years in prison for the blast attack in Atyrau (see October 2011).
Big electoral victory for the government party
The governing party of the Fatherland country wins 81 percent of the vote and is awarded 83 of the 98 seats.