Mr Tokayev – interim president and hand-picked successor of Mr Nazarbayev – won the early presidential election with nearly 71% of the votes. The campaign, election day and the aftermath of the election were marked by protests expressing anger over the election process, socioeconomic conditions, unemployment, corruption and widening inequality. Police arrested hundreds of protesters.
The early elections were organised following Mr Nazarbayev’s unexpected decision to step down in March of this year. Mr Nazarbayev – the ‘leader of the nation’ – ruled Kazakhstan between 1989 and 2019. Hence, this election marks the first transition of power since Kazakhstan’s independence. However, Mr Nazarbayev continues to exercise considerable political influence as he remains the chairman of the influential National Security Council and the ruling party (Nur Otan).
The newly elected president is a career diplomat and well respected by Russia, China and the US. During his campaign, Mr Tokayev pledged policy continuity. His task is likely to be complicated by a deterioration of the geopolitical and domestic environment (cf. protests, which are rare in the Central Asian country, the America First policy and more complicated relations with Russia and China).
On the economic side, after a strong year 2017-2018, real GDP growth is expected to slow down to 3.2% this year, still a favourable level. General government finances remain solid (with a public debt of around 20% of GDP and a fiscal surplus expected this year). Inflation is moderate (5.3% in May 2019) and the exchange rate has been broadly stable since the beginning of the year. The current account balance is expected to be balanced at 0.1% of GDP in 2019 according to the IMF. The net oil exporter and non-OPEC partner agreed to cut its oil production as part of the agreement with OPEC. Despite this favourable picture, Credendo is likely to downgrade its short-term political risk – which represents the country’s liquidity and is currently in category 2/7 – as gross foreign exchange reserves are under pressure.
Analyst: Pascaline della Faille - P.dellaFaille@credendo.com