Did He Say More than He Wanted?

The words of Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev, the Head of the Senate of the Kazakhstan Parliament, spoken on BBC’s Hard Talk that Nursultan Nazarbayev would not participate in the 2020 presidential elections have set agog if not the whole country than at least those interested in politics.

Here is what was said verbatim.

Tokayev: «I don’t believe that President Nazarbayev will go to the presidential elections in 2020. I don’t believe it because he is a very wise man, he is absolutely reasonable. I think, in 2020, we shall have the presidential elections with other candidates except President Nazarbayev».

  Host: «I’ve never heard you or any other officials say it quite as clearly as that before».  

Tokayev: «This is my personal opinion. Of course, it is up to President Nazarbayev whether he will go to the presidential election. But I want to say it openly that I don’t believe that he will go».

Apart from that, the Head of the Senate who is de-jure the first one on the list of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s successors as the President of the country if the latter suddenly departs from life or is not able to continue performing his duties said that –

  • he (Tokayev) is not going to participate in the upcoming presidential elections;
  • even if Nazarbayev decides to retire, he will continue participating in the domestic and external affairs of the country.

A great deal of different explanations as to why Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev dared to be so frank (slip of the tongue, disregard to the norms of the high officials’ behavior, provocation, stupidity, courage) have already been presented.

What is remarkable, however, is the fact that neither Nursultan Nazarbayev nor Head of his Administration Adilbek Dzhaksybekov and Akorda has responded to Tokayev’s words even though these words, willingly or not, are doing damage to the political stability in the country.

In a related move, let us look closely at an event that can be explained in absolutely different ways. Nonetheless…

The thing is that, this year, Nursultan Nazarbayev has been travelling around Kazakhstan much less than usual. To confirm our observation, we will present his schedule that we have compiled based on the official announcements on the Akorda website.


January — Almaty

Match — Akmola and Karaganda regions

April — Mangistau region (upon returning from Azerbaijan)

April — South-Kazakhstan region (to meet with President of Uzbekistan)

July — East-Kazakhstan region

August — Akmola region

August — East-Kazakhstan region

September — Almaty and Almaty region; Zhambyl region

October — Aktobe region and Kzyl-Orda region

November — Kostanay region


May — Almaty region

May — West-Kazakhstan region (upon returning from Russia)

June — East-Kazakhstan region

As we can see, during 2017, Nursultan Nazarbayev visited 14 Kazakhstan regions; including the one that was used for meeting with the Uzbek colleague and another that was visited on the way home from his trip abroad. In the first half of 2018, however, there have only been three visits including the one made on the way home from the trip abroad.

With that, one should keep in mind that Nursultan Nazarbayev visits the East-Kazakhstan region every year, usually in June or July, perhaps for the purpose of the maral velvets treatment.

Thus, in 2017, the President visited 12 regions (not counting the stops made on his way home from abroad and the health-related trips to the East-Kazakhstan region) while, in the first half of 2018, he visited only one. Note that this one region was the Almaty region, Nursultan Nazarbayev’s home area.

Of course, this decrease of the activities on the part of the head of the Kazakhstan state can be explained by the difficulty and complexity of his international trips this year (his January visit to the US, for instance). But something else is possible — it might have something to do with the abnormal political loquacity of Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev.


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