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A secondary challenge for Kazakhstan is how to engage the West during a time of heightened East-West tension.

Furthermore, Europe, NATO, and the United States—once keenly interested in Central Asia as the staging ground for the war in Afghanistan—have largely pulled out of the region and are refocusing their attention elsewhere.

Economic discontent is increasing, particularly among those who have not benefited from the country’s fast growth—much of which has been centered around the capital of Astana and the commercial center of Almaty.

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To outsiders, the Kazakh leadership presents the country as an island of stability and prosperity in an increasingly troubled Eurasian landmass.

To an extent, these claims are true, but the bar for stability and prosperity in the region is quite low.

Public statements, including those made via social media, on what are considered sensitive topics such as the currency devaluation, corruption allegations against senior officials or the security services, or comments deemed by law enforcement to be ethnically chauvinistic or extremist are closely monitored by the government.

This lack of vibrant public debate and legitimate outlets for the public to convey information back to the state does not seem to have been much of a problem during the boom years, but could be down the road as the Kazakh state’s and corporate entities’ budgets become increasingly stretched.

Nazarbayev, who is seventy-five and has run the country since the late Soviet era, won the April election with an implausible 97 percent of the vote—once again postponing the inevitable leadership change.

The early elections should be seen as preventative measures to ensure the safe return of Nazarbayev and the political system he stewards to office before the country’s growing economic crisis leads to greater socioeconomic discontent—something that now appears to be starting.

Kazakhstan’s economic growth was, for a long time, extraordinary.

Per capita GDP, for example, rose from

The early elections should be seen as preventative measures to ensure the safe return of Nazarbayev and the political system he stewards to office before the country’s growing economic crisis leads to greater socioeconomic discontent—something that now appears to be starting.Kazakhstan’s economic growth was, for a long time, extraordinary.Per capita GDP, for example, rose from $1,647 in 1991 to $13,172 in 2013, transforming Kazakhstan from a post-Soviet basket case to a middle-income country in just two decades.However, Kazakhstan’s political system now looks increasingly brittle, which raises concerns about what happens to the country after the Nazarbayev era.Political openness, independent media, and civil society remain stunted in Kazakhstan, once again by design.There is more civil society space in Kazakhstan than in neighboring Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan, but those countries are a low bar for comparison.

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The early elections should be seen as preventative measures to ensure the safe return of Nazarbayev and the political system he stewards to office before the country’s growing economic crisis leads to greater socioeconomic discontent—something that now appears to be starting.

Kazakhstan’s economic growth was, for a long time, extraordinary.

Per capita GDP, for example, rose from $1,647 in 1991 to $13,172 in 2013, transforming Kazakhstan from a post-Soviet basket case to a middle-income country in just two decades.

However, Kazakhstan’s political system now looks increasingly brittle, which raises concerns about what happens to the country after the Nazarbayev era.

Political openness, independent media, and civil society remain stunted in Kazakhstan, once again by design.

There is more civil society space in Kazakhstan than in neighboring Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan, but those countries are a low bar for comparison.

||

The early elections should be seen as preventative measures to ensure the safe return of Nazarbayev and the political system he stewards to office before the country’s growing economic crisis leads to greater socioeconomic discontent—something that now appears to be starting.

Kazakhstan’s economic growth was, for a long time, extraordinary.

Per capita GDP, for example, rose from $1,647 in 1991 to $13,172 in 2013, transforming Kazakhstan from a post-Soviet basket case to a middle-income country in just two decades.

However, Kazakhstan’s political system now looks increasingly brittle, which raises concerns about what happens to the country after the Nazarbayev era.

,647 in 1991 to ,172 in 2013, transforming Kazakhstan from a post-Soviet basket case to a middle-income country in just two decades.

However, Kazakhstan’s political system now looks increasingly brittle, which raises concerns about what happens to the country after the Nazarbayev era.

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