In December 1991, amidst the disintegration of the USSR, the Kazakh Supreme Soviet followed the lead of the other Soviet republics and declared its independence. As noted by Olcott (2010), Kazakhstan’s birth could be best described as “reluctantly accepting independence” (24). The new Kazakh leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was a holdover from the Soviet period and had only emerged as first secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party (CPK) in 1989 (Hiro 2009, 243). After ascending to power in a country that had become independent “by default” (Cummings 2004, 1), Nazarbayev was keen to both consolidate his power over Kazakhstan and preserve the country’s independence and territorial integrity. In the course of the 1990s, he secured the presidency in an unopposed 1991 election, asserted growing executive power over an initially combative legislature, and applying his Soviet era contacts and familial and clan-based relationships, constructed a durable neopatrimonial authoritarian regime.