NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – A televised debate that was advertised as a chance to listen to the seven candidates that are competing to be Kazakhstan’s next presidential candidates was held in the country’s capital on 29 May, but three of the top names taking part in the race were no-shows due to scheduling conflicts and were, instead, represented by proxies.

President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev was unable to attend and was represented by the first deputy chairman of the Nur Otan party, Maulen Ashimbayev, who briefly outlined Tokayev’s programme, saying the latter guaranteed “economic growth in the country” through the promotion of domestically produced goods and enhanced state support for local businesses. He also added that Tokayev’s programme would provide additional support for rural business and the agro-industrial complex while also developing the financial sector.

Danya Yespayeva, the candidate from the liberal Ak Zhol parliamentary party, was also unable to attend but whose stand-in was party leader Azat Peruashev.  Arguing on Yespayeva’s behalf, Peruashev hammered home the point that a successful economy is impossible without fair competition. “The low level of small and medium-sized businesses in the mining regions is an indicator that foreign investors from equipment to clothing withdraw money from the country with the tacit consent of government officials.”

The third candidate who did not come to the televised debates was Toleutai Rakhimbekov, the third candidate to excuse himself from the night’s debates, had his deputy, Ali Bektaev,  argue in favour of more robust support for Kazakhstan’s agricultural industry.

“Agriculture is the key commodity security of our country. Only a country that fully provides its people with necessary goods can consider itself independent,” said Bektaev.

The Communist candidate, Zhambyl Akhmetbekov, relied on his party’s familiar arguments by railing against capitalism and corporation who he claims are “stealing the people’s money”.

Sadybek Tuguel, the presidential candidate from the Uly Dala Kyrandary, or Great Steppe Eagles party, defended his party’s populist message that the people of Kazakhstan should be entitled to claim a portion of the revenue generated by the sale of the energy’s giant’s oil and gas reserves.  “Every Kazakh citizen has the right to receive his share of the oil resources and gas available in the country, as is the case in Norway and the United Arab Emirates.”

The leader of the National-patriotic party Ult Tagdyry (Conscience of the Nation), Amirzhan Kosanov, argued that corruption has crippled the economy and stifled growth. He also called for a multi-party parliament, independent courts, and a free media.

A recent law concerning advertising was the main focus of Federation of Trade Union head Amangeldy Taspihov who said the regulationhampers opportunities” for entrepreneurs and citizens alike.