The Leader of the Nation
"Nursultan Nazarbayev is a visionary […]a tyrant, perhaps, but a visionary.”
Nursultan Nazarbayev, first President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and "Leader of the Nation", a title given to him by a law of 2010, which de facto elevates him to the status of president for life. Those who are less than 30 years old, and who have known only him, simply call him "Papa", with a touch of irony. From constitutional reforms to rigged elections, the former metallurgist has built a system on which he reigns without sharing or counter-power.
Nazarbayev has suppressed dissent, been accused of human rights abuses by several human rights organizations, and presided over an authoritarian regime. No election held in Kazakhstan since independence has met international standards. In 2010 he announced reforms to encourage a multi-party system.
Internationally, he is respected for his decisive rejection of what might have seemed a nuclear option, and as a force for Central Asian stability. He is known as a daring bargainer - not to say a brinkman - for the best possible deal from the multi-national commercial interests with which he must work to exploit his country's wealth and build its future.
The 2016 Human Rights Watch report commented that Kazakhstan "took few meaningful steps to tackle a worsening human rights record in 2015, maintaining a focus on economic development over political reform.