The Horizon of Political UncertaintiesDosym Satpayev, director of Risks Assessment Group, Ph.D.
In December of this year Kazakhstan will celebrate its 20th anniversary of independence. What society we have built and what trends will define the country’s medium-term political prospect?
If to proceed from the fact that many postSoviet countries in their development usually pass three stages: institutional, mobilization and stabilization, Kazakhstan is just at the third stage. It can be said that after adoption of the law «On the Leader of Nation» in 2010 and preschedule presidential elections in April of this year, actually an end was put to the formation of superpresidential system. The aim is quite clear and understandable: to extend to a maximum the legitimate staying in power of the first president because he is considered by the influential groups of pressure as a guarantor of the existing status quo.
Here, the talk is primarily about the distribution of resources and preservation of property. However, despite this, many representatives of the elite are already preparing for a post-Nazarbayev’s period pushed by an instinct of self-preservation. And what’s further? Indeed, strengthening of the presidential vertical only does not guarantee efficiency of the whole political system where we can observe the so-called formal institutionalization under which till now there are no political institutes capable to provide continuity of powers in Kazakhstan.
It is clear that under preservation of his physical and intellectual ability the working president has a high degree of legitimacy so far in the opinion of the elite that reduces a possibility of coup d’etat the efficiency of which for the elite has not yet precisely determined. However, it does not exclude a latent preparation of all main elite groups for the project “successor”. It is one of the reasons for preserving a conflict potential inside the elite.
So, it is not surprising that recently even foreign financial analytical organizations are making an accent on the political risks in Kazakhstan connected with the prospects of supreme power. At the same time, strikes the identity of their analytical calculations on this theme with the already published comments and articles by Kazakhstan political scientists.
For example, in May of this year the rating agency Standard & Poor's has not excluded the growth of political risks in Kazakhstan in a medium-term prospect. In its report on Kazakhstan, Standard & Poor's stressed that the lack of clearness in the issue on continuity of political power in Kazakhstan is a factor restricting a level of sovereign rating. Analytics consider that while Nursultan Nazarbayev stay in power, a threat of break in political stability is insignificant. But if Nazarbayev will leave the post of the president not appointing a successor, this can destabilize political situation. Any event which poses a threat to a non-conflict change of power can influence on the level of rating if it will affect the development of the extractive industry and other branches producing export goods.
It is possible to refer to political risks the fact that in recent years many economic and political resources even more are concentrating around the president. It is the so-called umbrella control system when each sphere has its own curator subordinating directly to the president. In the sphere of economy, it is Samruk Kazyna National Welfare Fund, Atameken National Economic Chamber of Kazakhstan and the Council of Foreign Investors. In the sphere of politics, it is the propresidential Nur Otan Party.
In the information sphere –Nur Media holding. From the viewpoint of S&P, such consolidation of control promotes further increase in predictability and coordination of policy. However, there are also risks here, namely, expansion of the field for abuses giving a possibility of direct control over the key industries of the economy and access to favourable delivery contracts.
Similar forecasts were given in August by the research company «The Economist Intelligence Unit», though their horizon of forecast was not so distant (from 2011 to 2015). According to the British experts, the supercentralized governing of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev most likely will proceed. In their opinion, among the factors promoting this are rather high economic growth and weakness of the opposition.
Meantime, probability of threats to the regime for the reviewed period exists and will grow further. The report’s authors believe that if Nursultan Nazarbayev will have good health, he will be in power in 2016. Thus, peaceful transfer of power is the most probable scenario, because any person chosen by him, in the opinion of experts, will get support of the elite and the public.
To protect his interests, Nursultan Nazarbayev can choose a successor from the members of his family. In this regard, the British experts mention the president’s son-in-law Timur Kulibayev. At the same time, however, it can be ignored the so called «old guards» in the person of the head of KNB Nurtai Abykayev, or Almaty City Akim Akhmetzhan Essimov, as well as the younger players like Kairat Kelimbetov or Imangali Tasmagambetov.
Fuel to the fire of the delicate theme on the struggle for supreme power in Kazakhstan was added by German tabloid Bild which was the first to inform that the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev underwent operation on prostate in one of the hospitals in Germany. This information was confirmed also by the president’s former son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev who hides himself outside Kazakhstan. Of interest is that the theme of the president’s health found continuation in an interview with the adviser to the head of state Yermukhamet Yertysbayev given by him to the Russian newspaper Kommersant. He informed that the President of Kazakhstan passes medical examination two times a year.
One – inside the country and one – abroad. The adviser considers that it is favourable for Rakhat Aliyev and the former banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, who has received political asylum in London, to spread rumours about the bad state of health of Nazarbayev in order to provoke coup d-etat in the republic. Though the greatest resonance caused the statement of Yertysbayev that the president’s son-in-law Timur Kulibayev quite suits to the role of a successor of the head of state whatever said Mukhtar Ablyazov in his mass-media in which an idea is pushed in parallel on serious strengthening of political influence of the Prime Minister Karim Massimov.
So, by its content and form, this interview can be reviewed only as a reaction to numerous information raids in the oppositional mass-media both in regard to the president’s son-in-law and to the Prime Minister. Though the reaction of Kulibayev himself on the advisor’s statement was sharp, and it’s quite natural. This theme is rather dangerous, and any hint on political ambitions of this or that representative of power can be immediately used by enemies as a basis for suspicions. Ultimately, the former son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev was also accused, among others, of organization of coup d-etat with the aim to capture power.
Meantime, the interview of the president’s adviser was not at all sensational for the expert community given that Timur Kulibayev for a long time already is entering the so-called «short list» of possible successors. Especially as that in recent years, especially after 2007, with the weakening of Rakhat Aliyev’s group, the middle son-in-law is actively gaining height in different spheres. Along with the post of the chairman of the board of Samruk-Kazyna NWF and supervising positions in Kazenergy, Timur Kulibayev was also elected as a chairman of the presidium of the National Economic Chamber of Kazakhstan Atameken Union which tries to supervise all Kazakhstan businesses.
In the summer of this year, he was also elected to the board of directors of Russian Gazprom. At the same time, some analysts do not exclude his participation in supervising Ak Zhol Party after a change in this party’s leadership that was regarded by many as an entrance ticket to the Majilis.