Kazakhstan. Uprising and violence during the year in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan raised concern within the political leadership of Kazakhstan. President Nursultan Nazarbayev warned that Central Asia could be destabilized if Western democracy was introduced too quickly in the region. At a US-arranged meeting on foreign investment in Alma-Ata in June, he explained that democracy must be “learned over time”.
The political opposition won an important victory when the Constitutional Court in August declared that the presidential election would be held in December and not the following year as government representatives wanted.
According to countryaah, Astana is the capital and one of the major cities within the country of Kazakhstan. President Nazarbayev has ruled the country since 1990, and, according to Western observers, no elections have so far been considered free. When US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Kazakhstan in October, she called for free and fair elections in December. Rice said Kazakhstan should take the lead on economic and democratic reforms in Central Asia, and she called for the fight against corruption, but did not direct any criticism at the president. She was accused by her critics of mitigating her message for the sake of the US economic interests in the oil-rich country, which Rice rejected.
Zharmakhan Tuyakbai from the opposition alliance For a fair Kazakhstan, the opposition’s main name was among the eleven candidates of the presidential election. Tuyakbai believed that the regime’s corruption was Kazakhstan’s biggest problem. According to Tuyakbai, the president’s circle has shot at the privatizations and seized the revenues from the country’s oil resources.
According to the official result, Nazarbayev received 91% of the vote in the presidential election, but OSCE observers reported on election fraud, opposition to the opposition and unilateral media coverage during the election campaign.
At the end of the year, a pipeline was opened to supply China with Kazakh oil from the large reserves around the Caspian Sea. It is Kazakhstan’s first major export line that does not pass through Russian territory.
The Nazarbayev regime has been boosted by an oil-laden economic growth of about 10 percent annually since the turn of the millennium. In a few decades, oil production has multiplied to 1.7 million barrels a day, and oil reserves make Kazakhstan the second largest oil producer among the former Soviet republics, after Russia. The government has shown a willingness to let foreign investors into the oil sector, but in 2004 a drastic tightening of the terms of a stricter tax law was announced. The state oil company KazMunaiGaz also reserves the right to a 50 percent stake in future projects. National Fund of the Republic of Kazakhstan Oil Fundwas established in 2000 and is managed by the central bank with the president, prime minister and members of the national assembly as governors. In 2014, the fund value was reportedly $ 77 billion.
The oil age began in 1979 when Soviet geologists made a very discovery just north of the Caspian Sea. The field was called Tengiz (the “Sea”). Since 1990, US companies with Chevron at the forefront have been heavily involved in the development; this has been welcomed as a counterbalance to Russian domination. A key problem has been the transport of oil to markets in the West. Kazakhstan achieved its breakthrough as an oil exporter in 2001 with the opening of a 150-mile pipeline from Tengiz to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. With rights in two major oil fields, China has also made major investments. Work on an oil pipeline to the Chinese border began in 2005.
Norwegian Statoil (now Equinor) has been involved in Kazakhstan since 1992, and originally had a 4.7 percent stake in the large Kashagan field. Statoil withdrew from Kashagan in 2001 after losing the right to be a sole operator, but has since tried in other fields, including through the Abay project. During the first Norwegian Prime Minister’s visit to Kazakhstan in 2004, Kjell Magne Bondevik opened the Statoil office in the capital Astana.
The office also became the Consulate General of Norway and later the Embassy of Norway for four of the five republics in Central Asia – besides Kazakhstan, the ambassador also covered Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, while Uzbekistan was covered from the Norwegian embassy in Moscow. In 2005, Kazakhstan opened an embassy in Oslo, the first in Northern Europe. In the same year, Statoil and KazMunaiGaz signed a letter of intent for a joint exploration and development project in the Abay area of the Caspian continent. In 2013, however, Statoil announced that they were withdrawing from Kazakhstan, and the Astana office was closed. The Norwegian embassy in Astana closed in 2016, and all five republics in Central Asia are currently covered by an ambulatory ambassador based in Oslo.
In Kazakhstan there is some cultivation of hemp and opium poppy for the production of narcotics, and the country acts as a transit country for narcotics from Southwest Asia to Russia and Europe in general.