Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has launched a broadside against the West, warning in a TV interview of the dangers of seeking to export Western values to states with different traditions.
Speaking to Russia’s state-run Rossiya 24, Nazarbayev identified the West’s use of media spin to manipulate public opinion and generate protests as a “threat.” He attacked the West for attempts at “implanting their own ideas with the aim of influencing states’ domestic policy, creating people who are pro-protest.” Though he did not name a Western state, the position jives closely with his allies’ in Moscow.
“What is needed is evolution not revolution,” Nazarbayev added, repeating one of his favorite mantras.
Nazarbayev believes revolutions bring poverty in their wake, adding that “permanent revolution” in neighboring Kyrgyzstan (which has seen two presidents overthrown since 2005) was not making people’s lives better.
Even before Middle Eastern leaders started toppling like dominoes last year, Nazarbayev had made improving the lives of ordinary people in Kazakhstan a stated cornerstone of policy. In his interview he named poverty and unemployment as the chief causes of the Arab Spring – but added that “external forces” also played a role.
This was the second time in a week that Nazarbayev had condemned the Arab Spring: On April 20 he described the events as an “erosion of international law” that had shown that “society is not ready to accept the value reference points of the Western mass media.”
“There is not one model of democracy,” Nazarbayev added on that occasion. “People should themselves decide their futures in line with their cultures, traditions, and political systems.”
Nazarbayev is fond of saying that his country will follow what he calls the “Kazakhstani path” to democracy. His detractors see this as shorthand for an authoritarian political system that maintains a democratic veneer for international consumption.
Nazarbayev has been in power for over two decades and can stand for re-election for life. Kazakhstan has never held a vote deemed free and fair by credible international observers.
The Arab Spring has sparked suggestions that Central Asian states with long-serving leaders might be susceptible to revolution, though administration officials in Kazakhstan pooh-pooh the idea.