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Opinion

What price stability?

As Kazakhstan prepares for an election, foreign institutions should remember that autocrats are of little benefit to investments in the long run

Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is hoping to be elected for a third term of office in a poll scheduled for early December. The signs are that he will succeed.

This would buck the trend of the last three post-Soviet presidential elections, coming after revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Opposition groups in each of these three countries received varying levels of support from the west. As research from brokerage house Aton Capital points out, Kazakhstan boasts investment from all the world's major economic players, including the US, Europe, Russia and China, through oil investments. This suggests that it is in few countries' interests to encourage discontent on this occasion.

Nazarbayev himself seems confident that Kazakhstan can avoid revolutionary contagion. During a three-hour live nationwide phone-in at the end of August, he quoted Victor Hugo's comment that "poverty gives birth to revolutions and revolutions give birth to poverty".

He argued that with Kazakhstan's GDP per capita twice that of Ukraine and two-and-a-half times that of Georgia, Kazakhstan was too wealthy to be struck by its neighbours' bug.

Kazakhstan's disjointed opposition has traditionally been harassed or exiled. The country's authorities have been preparing for December's elections by bringing in laws banning street demonstrations around election time.

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