Recently Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, head of the Kazakh Senate, had a lengthy interview with BBC’s HARDtalk host Stephen Sackur. One of the things they spoke of was a question related to the 2020 presidential elections. Stephen Sackur asked if political reform was on the horizon. There was a discussion on this issue which read as follows:
«Stephen Sackur: Do you know what is gonna happen when the succession time come?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: First of all I would… I should mention that President of Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev was elected till 2020. Will he be re-elected once again, it’s up to him.
Stephen Sackur: He will be, if my mathematics is correct, he will be eighty by then?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Yes, yes.
Stephen Sackur: Now the Constitution…
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: In Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad became chief of the government at ninety-two.
Stephen Sackur: Very interesting comment, because I noticed the Constitution says that because he is the founder of the nation he can run as many times as he want.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: But speaking frankly, I don’t believe that President Nazarbayev will go to the presidential election in 2020. I don’t believe, because he is a very wise man and absolutely reasonable. I think that in 2020 we shall have presidential elections with other candidates, except President Nazarbayev.
Stephen Sackur: Well, you are de facto number two in this country. I’ve never heard you or any other official say it quite as clearer as that before. So, that suggests to me that you…
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: It’s my personal opinion. But I think that… Of course, it’s up to President Nazarbayev whether he will go for the presidential election. But I need to say openly I don’t believe that he will go.
Stephen Sackur: So as de facto number two right now and one of the most experienced politicians in Kazakhstan, are you trying your hand in the ring? Will you be a candidate in 2020?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: O no, I wouldn’t say so. Because that’s… It depends, it depends. But what I want to say is that, even if President Nazarbayev does not become the president of this country, he will be, will be exercising tremendous influence over politics, either external politics or internal politics. But still we have time. And it’s very much important that Kazakhstan will be as stable, as it’s now».
The BBC broadcast the Hardtalk interview with the chairman of the Kazakh Senate on June 20. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appeared not to be fully satisfied with it. «There is no necessity to fuel a drama about what has been said during this interview. That was a very interesting, intense conversation. Regardless of whether or not the president will take part in the next elections, he will have the final say in Kazakhstan’s domestic and foreign policies. This is determined by law. He has been and remains the leader of the nation».
On June 21, while speaking to reporters in the seat of the Senate of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev commented on the interview which had been aired on BBC World News. The chairman of the Kazakh Senate seemed a bit disenchanted with it. He told journalists that «the focus of attention had been shifted» in the interview. Despite there being different topics, they put just this portion of the conversation on the air, the one in which the issues surrounding the forthcoming elections are discussed, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said.
Dauren Abayev, minister of information and communication, also commented on this situation. He told reporters that the decision is far from being made. «There’s still time until 2020», Mr. Abayev said. «As someone who has worked closely with the President [as presidential press secretary], I am sure that Kazakhstan will only benefit from him running again in 2020».
For reference: Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is a Kazakhstani politician and diplomat. He has been serving as chairman of the Senate of Kazakhstan since 16 October 2013. He is fluent in Kazakh, Russian, English and Chinese and has knowledge of French. He is the recipient of several state awards from the Republic of Kazakhstan and other countries. He is one of that select group who were next to Mr. Nazarbayev in the very early years of independence.