ALMATY – Kazakhstan’s presidential campaign, which runs March 3-April 1, has proceeded with few glitches so far, observers say.
The Central Election Committee (CEC) registered four candidates for the April 3 election: incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev of the Nur-Otan Party, Zhambyl Akhmetbekov of the Communist People’s Party, Senator Gani Kasymov of the Patriots’ Party and independent Melis Yeleusizov.
The CEC has given each candidate 6.294m KZT (US $42,500) for his campaign, Aset Muhammedov of the CEC Analytical Department said.
“This money might (be used to) cover the costs of campaign events, the distribution of campaign materials, transport, two printed publications and one televised speech,” he said.
Nazarbayev has refused to campaign, Muhammedov said. “Also, on February 28, the president asked the directors of Nur-Otan’s regional offices not to do public events … and to give other candidates the opportunity to show themselves.”
Yeleusizov lacks the money to campaign, he said March 3.
“I have the experience. I’ve run quite a few campaigns. The only problem is the financial side,” he said. He has opened an account where people can send in donations, he later told Central Asia Online. “I expect to get at least 5% of the vote. After all, people know me.”
Each candidate is permitted to spend a maximum of US $3m, Muhammedov said.
The other two candidates have not cited any problems yet.
Meanwhile, the candidates published their political platforms March 7. Nazarbayev referenced his 2020 Development Programme, promising to reduce unemployment to 5% (currently 6%), poverty to 6% (currently 7%) and maternal and infant mortality by half, and to increase average life expectancy to 72 years. Life expectancy is currently slightly more than 68 years.
Akhmetbekov proposed nationalising the resource extraction industry – Kazakhstan’s most lucrative – and to redistribute the profits to the public. He promised to remove state control over prices and support medium-sized businesses.
Kasymov promised to modernise all branches of the government, eliminate oblast-level government, and bring back collective farms. Speaking March 5, he vowed to create the office of vice president and to allow parliament to appoint or dismiss the cabinet and to approve the budget. He also has promised to pardon more prisoners.
Yeleusizov called on Kazakhstan to completely orient itself toward Russia and not enter the WTO. He promised to restore village life.
Nazarbayev asked local authorities not to interfere in the election campaigns, the presidential press office reported March 7.
“I draw your attention, akims at all levels, to the need to comply with election laws,” he said. “All state agencies must exclusively mind their own business.”
Minor difficulties are being solved
“The election campaigns are going civilly without serious violations,” Muhammedov said. “We know that in some regions, the citizens haven’t been able to find themselves on the voter rolls, but all the minor difficulties are solved right away.”
The Communist People’s Party has not noticed any political pressure, Yury Podolsky of the party’s Almaty Oblast branch said. “The campaigning is taking place in a completely healthy environment. …We hope that our future work will be carried out in the same vein.”
A volunteer for one presidential candidate approached Naurys Giyasov, an engineer from Kostanai, and promised him US $200 for his vote, Giyasov said. “I immediately wrote a complaint to the CEC. It called me and promised to investigate.”
Giyasov said he hasn’t decided whom he’ll vote for. “Last time I voted for Nazarbayev, but this time I don’t know yet. Maybe I will vote for someone else for a change. We’ll see what they say in their speeches.”
The campaigns are going smoothly because “the plot is predictable,” political analyst Samir Talgatov of the Academy of Sciences said.
“Most people in the country are voting for Nazarbayev because nobody wants to lose the relative stability and prosperity,” he said. “If somebody else comes to power, it is still unknown what that will mean.”