For twenty-five years, Kazakhstan has made tremendous progress in its state-building efforts under the rule of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Nazarbayev has wielded strong control of the political process both in formal terms, through a highly presidential constitution, and in informal terms, with the respect he commands as the first President of Kazakhstan. But Kazakhstan has also announced its intention to join the world’s most developed 30 nations. Nazarbayev’s recent decree on constitutional reforms reflect the understanding that to achieve this goal, Kazakhstan needs to gradually reform its decision-making structure to distribute powers more evenly among the different branches of government, and in particular move from a system centered on the president to one that accords more influence to the Parliament and government. This is entirely in line with the broader efforts to reform Kazakhstan’s institutions to decrease the economy’s reliance on oil and increase competitiveness. These steps are important in helping Kazakhstan achieve its very ambitious goals over the next few decades. As always, however, while these measures are all positive in theory, the key element will be their implementation, which is a complicated process involving many institutions and stakeholders.
Dr Svante E. Cornell, Director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy, and one of its co-founders.