In 2019, the long-awaited transition of presidential power from Nursultan Nazarbayev to his anointed successor Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev took place. However, Nazarbayev continues to wield power. Among his many positions is the chair-for-life of the National Security Council, a constitutional body that has effective veto power over key policy decisions.

The health emergency hit the Kazakh economy hard, which contracted in 2020 and remained at the mercy of a recovery in the oil price to resume growth. Lower levels of growth, high inflation, rising poverty, and increasing unemployment will soon take their toll on Kazakhstan’s collective well-being.

The reform process initiated by Tokayev has consisted of mostly symbolic or cosmetic improvements. Even though the government has ramped up its efforts to publicize its fight against bribery and corruption and is reportedly vigorously cracking down on COVID-19-related economic crimes, grand political corruption continues to be a sizable challenge.

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