Formally, the political power in Kazakhstan belongs to party Nur Otan whose members include all of the Government, the governors of all levels and the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentarians as well as the deputies of the regional elective bodies. De-facto, however, this structure serves as one of the screens whose existence aims to mask the authoritarian nature of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s regime.
By the way, Nur Otan is led by Nursultan Nazarbayev himself as the Party President who has more rights and powers than the rest of the members altogether. For example, the Party President has the exclusive right to appoint his deputes. Even the Politburo members and the Central Committee Secretaries of the Communist Party of the USSR were appointed via elections.
Therefore, we believe, Nur Otan should not be considered the USSR Communist Party’s reincarnation. And not only because of the principal differences in the ideologies but also because of the total absence of any signs of the intraparty democracy, even if formal, in Nur Otan.
De-facto, Nur Otan is a non-governmental organization directly tied to the state and controlled by it. To be more precise, it is controlled by the people who have appropriated the state to itself.
This manifests itself not only in the fact that Nur Otan has been invariably headed by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan but also because the regional branches are led by the Governors of the corresponding regions and this rule knows no exceptions.
Recently, Akorda and Nursultan Nazarbayev has been trying to somehow “revive” Nur Otan. However, this attempt seems to have failed and the chances of Nur Otan’s First Deputy President Maulen Ashimbayev to become politically successful via transforming his structure from a decoration into an actual political organization are nil.
Such an outcome was to be expected and, we believe, can be explained by Nur Otan’s “birth trauma”.
Recall, that the Otan Republican Political Party was founded on March 1, 1999. At that time, the oppositional politicians and political forces were relatively free to operate in Kazakhstan. Later, in 2006, Otan was joined by the other three big pro-Presidential parties – Asar (controlled by the President’s eldest daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva), the Civil Party and the Agrarian Party (both controlled by the big Kazakh businesses tightly connected to Akorda).
By the looks of it, the decision to consolidate the biggest pro-Presidential political parties into one later renamed as Nur Otan was a part of the operation to stabilize the domestic political situation and strengthen the super-Presidential vertical.
Around that time, Nazarbayev’s two key opponents met their tragic death. The first one was a part of the system, the co-President of political party Ak Zhol Altynbek Sarsenbayev. The second was former Governor of Almaty Zamanbek Nurkadilov who, at that time, was already not a part of the system.
According to the official explanation, the first was kidnapped and killed by the agents of a NSC special unit on the order of a private party that was offended by his derogatory statements. The said party was later accused and convicted. The second one committed suicide by firing three shots. Of course, hardly anybody believe these statements since the deaths of both politicians were extremely beneficial to the Kazakh authorities.
It was also then when the word leaked out of the existence of the “The Superkhan” plan according to which all the power was to be concentrated in the hands of Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan was even supposed to become a hereditary monarchy (khanate) with him on the throne. Thus, Nazarbayev would have received the possibility to pass on the supreme power in the country.
To those who are not familiar with the mentioned plan, we suggest watching the film shot by K+ TV Channel.
It is difficult to say why Akorda had eventually abandoned this idea. Most likely, the reason lies in the fact that it did not gain the support of Kazakhstan’s key external political allies. However, the very facts of promoting such an idea and of its partial implementation via capturing in the Constitution the exclusive powers and privileges of the First President as well as awarding him the title of the Leader of the Nation tell us that the intentions of Nursultan Nazarbayev and his circle were quite serious.
Under these circumstances, the merging of Otan with the other three pro-Presidential parties can be regarded not so much an attempt on the part of Nursultan Nazarbayev to form a serious political structure to be leaned on when pursuing the domestic policy as the means to devoid his closest allies of such an important instrument as their own political parties, especially those established in the Parliament and the local elective bodies.
This is what we choose to call the party’s “birth trauma”. Nur Otan was supposed to unite Nazarbayev’s allies not for the purpose of giving them more strength but to prevent the intra-elite fighting in the public political space. As a result, when Nazarbayev was faced with the necessity to reach out to his fellow citizens and obtain their support, his party (which, by the way, has about a million members) turned out to be even more infirm and useless than the Communist Party of the USSR during last years of its existence.
See infra K+ film “Superkhan’s Secret Advisor”