Nazarbayev confirms his adherence to Kazakhstan’s democratic policy

By E.Ostapenko, A.Maratov (Astana) contributed to the article

Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev saves the democratic process in the country by refusing to hold a referendum and offering to hold early presidential elections, experts believe.

"Nazarbayev finds a way out of the situation," Center of Russia-Eurasia of the German Foreign Policy Council Director Alexander Rahr said. By choosing early elections, he saves the democratic process in the country, he told Trend.

Nazarbayev refused to hold a referendum on extending presidential powers until 2020 and offered to hold early elections this year, thereby reducing his presidential term by two years.

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The legitimacy of the amendments to the constitution to replace the presidential elections in 2012 with a referendum was considered by the Constitutional Council of Kazakhstan after Nazarbayev refused to sign the amendments.

On Monday the Constitutional Council recognized a referendum as legally incorrect and contradicting the foundations of democracy.

According to Rahr, the situation is specific in Kazakhstan: political system is associated with the name of one person, namely Nazarbayev. Really Nazarbayev is a man with historical significance. He is the creator of [the] new Kazakhstan, Rahr said, adding that he has the right to take certain steps that other leaders cannot do it, Rahr told Trend

The 70-year-old Nazarbayev has been in power for over 20 years. According to the poll, the president is supported by 90 percent of the population. Last year he received the status of "Leader of Nation."

The decision to hold early elections is a strong move, which once again shows that he remains the number-one politician in Kazakhstan, Chief Editor of the Russian analytical agency Vestnik Kavkaza Alexei Vlasov said.

"The point is simple: Election is the same referendum. And those citizens who supported the initiative of holding a referendum can vote for a national leader in the early presidential elections. It only remains to determine the date of their holding," Vlasov said in an interview with teh EuroAsia magazine.

The West has repeatedly expressed concern about the decision to abandon [the] democratic procedure of presidential elections in Kazakhstan.

Nazarbayev shows the West his willingness to go through a democratic electoral procedure. He has all of the tools necessary to mobilize the electorate. There is the coalition Kazakhstan-2020. It includes key strategic programs aimed at modernization, Vlasov believes.

Thus, Nazarbayev is receiving formal support for his initiative from both Russia and the West; [it] thereby takes the wind out of opposition's sails, he said.

So, what decision the Kazakh president will take remained intrigue for analysts and ordinary citizens of Kazakhstan.

Rahr, expecting Nazarbayev's consent, links his refusal with the events in Egypt, where mass protests last already for a week demanding 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak's resignation and holding economic and political reforms.

"One man ruled Egypt for 30 years and it seemed that for the people, he was the nation's father and just God. He always gave stability to the country. Egypt became a real leader in the Islamic world [and] in the foreign policy during his presidency," Rahr said. "And suddenly one night riots hit the country and the person is forced to almost flee from the country," he added.

According to him, politicians such as Nazarbayev, if they really have the political wisdom and information, can analyze the situation and understand that such events could occur in their countries.

"Therefore, it is necessary, despite all, to keep up with the time and build a democracy - not taking all the power - and know how to divide it in order to avoid such serious consequences in the future," he said.

However, Kazakh political scientist Eduard Poletayev thinks different.

"The Kazakh president's refusal to hold referendum [is] in no way is linked with recent events in Egypt. This is quite [a] different situation," he told Trend.

According to him, one should take into account the fact that it is already the third president in Egypt, while Nazarbayev is the first president in Kazakhstan. Secondly, the idea of a referendum appeared in Kazakhstan long before the events in Egypt. And the decision on early elections was a logical continuation of the situation [that] emerged in the Kazakh society.

In connection with [the] spreading wave of rallies in the Middle East, there is a joke on the Internet: Even if people go on streets to hold rallies in Kazakhstan, it will be only to keep the president [in] power.

Director of the Kazakh section of Radio Azattyk links the president's decision to organize early elections with the interests of the ruling regime to extend the powers of the current state head by the possible change of government in Russia, where presidential elections will be held in 2012.

The idea of a referendum is not accidental. Everyone knows that the situation in neighboring Russia is of great importance for the situation in Kazakhstan

"It is not without reason that in Kazakhstan it is said that if rain begins in Russia, then Kazakhstan is preparing umbrellas," Magauin said.

He said the confrontation between Putin and Medvedev in Russia is becoming so increasingly great that it will be a factor in the upcoming 2012 elections. Nazarbayev's regime is interested in holding its elections, or simply to extend the mandate before the elections in Russia, he said.