Ambassador of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov discusses the recent elections that took place in his country
ON 9 JUNE, a historic moment took place in Kazakhstan– a new President was elected. This was the first time a new Head of State was elected since the country’s First President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, stepped down in March. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev received 70.96 per cent of the vote in the election, which had a 77.5 per cent voter turnout. President Tokayev is well known both in Kazakhstan and internationally. During his distinguished career, he served as Kazakhstan’s prime minister, foreign minister and as the UN Under Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, the first representative from Asia to hold this post. In these roles, he built close relationships with representatives of other countries and is well placed to build on this foundation as newly elected President of Kazakhstan.
Over one thousand observers were invited to monitor the election across the country. While most observers praised the transparency and the high level of organisation of the election, there are of course lessons to be learned. As stated by the President, the government will be studying and analysing the full conclusions of all observers and appropriate action will be taken as necessary. This will help ensure that future elections further reach international standards.
The results of the election certainly demonstrated a pluralism of opinions in the country. The runner-up was a candidate who has been a well-known opposition politician for two decades, while third place went to the first woman to run for president in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh electorate understood the importance of these elections. This was demonstrated not only by the high turnout, but also the discussions that took place among civil society organisations, activists, domestic journalists and political experts. This should be welcomed, as frank and open public debates are a sign of a thriving democracy.
At the same time, it is important that these conversations take place in a civilised and official manner. As President Tokayev recently noted, our objective should be “different views, but one united nation,” as this is the only way to strengthen the unity of the nation and the stability of the country. It is for this reason that right after the election, the new Head of State announced that the National Council of Public Trust (NCPT) will soon be established to encourage and facilitate constructive dialogue within society. The first meeting will take place in August. It will allow our citizens to voice their views on how to take our country forward and enable a forthright discussion between the government and civil society.
As well as ensuring dialogue, President Tokayev has set out other key priorities for the country. Some of them are focused directly on improving the living standards of Kazakh citizens, including increasing the population’s income, creating new jobs and affordable housing, and creating new opportunities for youth. Additional priorities are focused on improving the country’s institutional resilience, including eliminating corruption, reforming the judicial system and law enforcement, and developing the regions.
To achieve these crucial objectives, the new presidential administration and government will build on the strong foundation that has been created under the guidance of Nursultan Nazarbayev. During the leadership of our First President, Kazakhstan has developed into a prospering economy and is respected by the international community for our diplomatic efforts to resolve global challenges. President Tokayev has indicated that he will continue to build on Nursultan Nazarbayev’s legacy and long-term initiatives, both domestically and through Kazakhstan’s foreign policy initiatives.
There is undoubtedly a lot of work to be done, but I believe that Kazakhstan is well placed to achieve these goals. As President Tokayev stated during his inauguration, “economic, social and political progress is our only right answer to the challenges of our time.”
As the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the UK, I look forward to further strengthening strong economic and political ties between our two great countries. Indeed, the UK is currently one of the five largest investors in the Kazakh economy, which underlines the importance of our growing connections.
The UK has been an invaluable partner to Kazakhstan. I am sure that this friendship will continue as Kazakhstan enters a new chapter in its development and prosperity.