Why Did Nazarbayev Reshuffle the State Apparatus?

Last Friday, President Nursultan Nazarbayev participated in the extended meeting of the Kazakhstan government and rewarded everyone according to their work. With that, the leader of the nation limited himself to discussing the topical problems and reminding of the crucial tasks but chose not to fire Bakytzhan Sagintayev’s Cabinet. Minister of Labor Tamara Duysenova turned out to be his only “victim”.

Thus, one can say that the yet another cycle of the personnel reshuffles that started two months ago with the movements in the law-enforcement block has ended. Therefore, it makes sense to try and understand what happened and why Nazarbayev shook the siloviks so seriously while living the government practically intact.

We believe Nursultan Nazarbayev acted the way he did to mobilize the super-presidential vertical and the officialdom as a whole. With that, the President took into consideration the principal difference between the “law-enforcement” and the “economic” blocks.

Note that, in the first half of December 2017, Nazarbayev pensioned off Head of the Constitutional Council Igor Rogov and appointed Kayrat Mami instead. Zhakyp Asanov became the new Head of the Supreme Court and, in his turn, had vacated the post of Attorney General to be taken over by Kayrat Kozhamzharov. The chain ended with Deputy Head of the Anticorruption Agency Alik Shpekbayev who became its new leader.

As for Kayrat Mami’s moving to the Constitutional Council, it is hard to define it as anything rather than an “honorable discharge”. Note that this agency, with all its officially stated legal importance, has no real influence in the country and, therefore, no real respect from the state apparatus.

The fact that Mami has lost much of his political weight is indirectly confirmed by the veiled yet rather harsh criticism of himself as well as his actions inside the judicial system. Besides, Mukhtar Zimanov, a son of Salyk Zimanov, one of the co-authors of the Kazakhstan Constitution, has been released from prison on parole.  Mami had a hand in his conviction as part of the “Khorogoss Case”.

Obviously, it is unlikely that Nursultan Nazarbayev will let the opponents of the new Head of the Constitutional Council to finish him off but Kayrat Mami’s allies are likely to find themselves under attack (all the more so since their positions are coveted my many). On the other hand, the luck may favor Mami but, for that to happen, the transit in the country must go in the wrong direction so that the fighting clans would be forced to appeal to the Constitutional Council asking for arbitrage. However, this scenario is highly unlikely to materialize. Moreover, it is possible that Kayrat Mami will not be able to hold on to his post for that long a time.

As for the other three appointees, all of them started their actions with publicly admitting the serious deficiencies in the operations of their agencies, making inflated demands on their subordinates, and promising to change the matters for the better. After which, they began discharging and reshuffling their personnel. Since Zhakyp Asanov and Kayrat Kozhamzharov as well as Alik Shpekbayev are no newbies in the state apparatus, it seems this is exactly what the person to whom their owe their appointments wanted – to shake the entire law-enforcement “block”.

On the other hand, firing the government and appointing a new Cabinet would lead to at least a half a year (or perhaps a whole year) disintegration of the state apparatus. For this reason, Nursultan Nazarbayev chose to fire only Minister of Labor Tamara Duysenova. And even this happened probably not because her job performance was poorer than those of her colleagues but due to her minimal political weight. So, she was simply a “burnt offering” that was made so that Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev and his comrades knew that the same may happen to any of them any moment.

Thus, we believe Nursultan Nazarbayev executed a series of the state apparatus reshuffles to, first, mobilize all the state agencies’ employees and all the state agencies, second, to conduct the external review of the law-enforcement block’s activities by putting in charge new bosses, third, to enforce the competition among the agencies and inside the agencies.

The reasons for Nazarbayev to act in this way are clear – in the framework of the authoritarian political system and the super-presidential vertical, the civilized mechanisms to mobilize the state apparatus and the quasi-state structures, the officials and the state-financed organizations’ employees via open political competition are simply inapplicable.

As a result, the President had to use the standard Eurasian practice of changing chief executives in order to “shake” the state structures and make them work more actively and effectively. Of course, this medicine works for only about half a year or may be a year, and then, after the agencies’ apparatuses are renewed and become subordinated to the chief executives, it all dies away. Until the next personnel “perestroika”.


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