On June 9, the Kazakh people will have the opportunity to elect a president from seven candidates, the largest number and most diverse group of contenders to participate in a Kazakh presidential election. The election will serve as an opportunity to show our allies how far we’ve come as a nation. And in that spirit, our government has officially invited more than 1,000 international observers from 10 international organizations, including the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Following the resignation of Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev in March, we saw a new leader, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, take office for the first time in Kazakhstan’s history, and we watched as he oversaw a smooth transition of power. Taking it one step further, President Tokayev called for a snap election, empowering Kazakh citizens to determine the direction of the country.
Over the last 27 years, I have seen my country develop before my eyes. I saw Kazakhstan become an independent nation in 1991. I saw Kazakhstan become a global ally. I saw Kazakhstan become the most powerful economy in Central Asia. And now, I see Kazakhstan taking another step in its path towards democracy.
Kazakhstan’s democratic developments have been praised by our global partners, including the European Commission for Democracy, which have said that our political reforms represent a step forward in Kazakhstan’s ongoing democratization efforts.
Democracy is not easy to attain. As history has demonstrated, governments do not become democratic states overnight. Many nations, including some of Kazakhstan’s neighbors and allies, are still trying to find the delicate balance between a free society and stability. While my country is far from perfect, Kazakhstan has made strides in its democratic reforms and can provide a beacon of hope for a region that some dismiss as hopeless.
We’ve also made progress in our economic reforms. Over the years, we have worked towards modernizing our economy and have attracted more than $320 billion in foreign direct investment, becoming one of the top 30 countries in which to do business according to the World Bank. These reforms have led to companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell maintain multi-billion-dollar interests in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas fields. We also launched the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) last year in partnership with Nasdaq and Goldman Sachs as part of our efforts to become an economic hub.
These are not small accomplishments for a young country, and they are in large part thanks to First President Nazarbayev’s vision and his unveiling of the 2050 Strategy. Kazakhstan’s goal of becoming a more democratic nation is tied to its goal of becoming one of the top 30 developed states in the world. Both goals help empower the Kazakh people to take a leading role in shaping the country.
Stability is also of the utmost importance as Kazakhstan continues to engage with its international allies, including the United States. This is why the upcoming presidential election is crucial. A snap election is the best way to eliminate uncertainty and ensure dependability. We want to demonstrate to both our citizens and our global investors that Kazakhstan adheres to its constitutional values and can continue to be relied upon as it peacefully transitions into a new chapter in its history.
We recognize that achieving a truly democratic state is a process and that we still have work to do. But it is important to understand is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to nation building. Failed states, economic turmoil and violence plague the region. Kazakhstan is demonstrating that democracy and prosperity can be achieved, but both take time.
Once the results become official, I know that Kazakhstan will be on the right course and continue to develop close ties with its international partners, including the United States. We will continue to play a vital role on the global stage.
Kazakhstan will not only continue to succeed but also thrive as we have done for nearly 30 years because we rely on each of our citizens to aid us as we usher into a new era.
• Yerzhan Kazykhanov, ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States, formerly served as Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the U.K. and was the minister of foreign affairs.