Can Kazakhstan be America's New Partner in Central Asia?


Luke Coffey

Foreign Policy, Central Asia

American policymakers need to be cautious on how they approach the various reforms in Kazakhstan.

Can Kazakhstan be America's New Partner in Central Asia?

Change has come to Kazakhstan, at last.

The former Soviet republic's first president, seventy-nine-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev, stepped down in March after nearly thirty years in power. His successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, won the post in last month's elections, racking up 70 percent of the vote.

The election process, albeit imperfect, was Kazakhstan's most legitimate yet. (In the previous election, for example, Nazarbayev won with a reported 97.7 percent of the vote.) Just as Important was what didn't occur. Many had expected the Nazarbayevs to attempt a family power grab; it never transpired.

President Tokayev has a full in-box. His country suffers from corruption, social unrest and a weak economy. Keenly aware of these problems, his inauguration speech outlined not just three, or five, but ten priorities for reform.

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