Presidential elections are being held in Kazakhstan this week. Though there is a multiplicity of candidates in the running, only one is expected to receive a significant percentage of the vote: incumbent Nursaltan Nazarbayev. Nazarbayev, the first and only president of Kazakhstan following the collapse of the Soviet Union, published an op-ed in a prominent Kazakh newspaper suggesting that whoever the leader was following the section would be positioned to assist the country surmount notable economic and political problems. The country has been subjected to economic strain as a result of the ongoing crisis in Russia and had its political longevity called into question by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kazakh officials were perhaps questionably able to determine voter turnout to be greater than 90% less than 24 hours after polling stations were opened. Nazarbayev won 95.5% of the vote in 2011 in elections that were decried by every major transparency organization as unfair. The current elections have been awarded the assessment of “hardly visible” according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
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- Tensions rose again in Ukraine following the death of a Ukrainian serviceman this past weekend. The Ukrainian military responded with a harsh critique of what it deems a violation of the extant ceasefire. Seven other members of the Ukrainian military were injured in the alleged attack, according to a Ukrainian military spokesman one of many similar “violations” committed over the last few weeks. The truce, while still technically intact, is tenuous.
- The Russian government has proposed the formation of a “common military force” to police the Caspian Sea and to respond to threats of terrorism and “proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” The force would theoretically be composed of military elements from Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The article points out that no other state in the region has a sizeable naval force, suggesting that Russia would assume the lion’s share of the policing responsibilities.
- A piece in Watch China Times makes the case for rapid development of a railway network connecting China and Pakistan. The crux of the argument is the alleged benefit afforded China if it were to undertake development of the railway in strengthening ties with South Asia in addition to regions as far as Africa. The Chinese government recently committed $4 billion in funds to the project, though the source article, written by an alleged “expert,” suggests that greater funding is necessary to rapidly realize the benefits of the project.
- Mongolia and Belarus agreed to deepen cooperation in the areas of transport and logistics. Meetings held in Ulan Bator between the countries’ respective foreign ministries saw the two sides discuss increased cooperation in economic, scientific, educational and cultural ties. Little in the way of specifics was made available, although a greater presence for Belarusian companies such as BelAZ, MTZ and MAZ was suggested by Minsk.