It's a rare day when dictators voluntarily embark upon legitimate political reforms of any sort, but Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev appears to have made a connection between political freedoms and economic prosperity.
Admittedly, Nazarbayev is skeptical when it comes to political reform. After the ouster of Askar Akayev in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Nazarbayev's initial instincts were to clamp down on the press and political opponents. Yet with the expansion of trade ties with Europe and a warming of diplomatic relations with Washington, it appears that Nazarbayev is relaxing his once iron tight grip on domestic politics.
He's not letting go entirely, however. While his proposed reforms expand the power of the legislative branch, his powers would remain the same, leaving Kazakhstan with an inordinately strong executive branch. A man has to hedge his bets, right? Or as the man himself recently put it:
"The recent experience of our CIS neighbors has demonstrated with all obviousness that democracy cannot be built where citizens do not observe the law and constitutional order, where deep-rooted social chaos reigns."In other words, the leash will be loosened slowly, and if all goes well, there might be more down the road.