Among the numerous announcements of officials’ appointments, resignations and departmental moves, there hides a document that can become a big problem for the Kazakh authorities in the future. First of all, this concerns the families of Nursultan Nazarbayev and his successor, President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev.
We are talking about the First President’s decision to appoint Ardak Ashimbekuly the First Deputy Chief of the State Guard Service and the Head of his own Security.
Decree #13 issued by Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev on June 13, 2019, «On changes and additions to selected memorandums of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan» serves as the legal basis for Nursultan Nazarbayev’s decision. The document itself is short and consists of two sections only: the first one approves the «changes and additions to selected memorandums of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan», the second one «puts the document into force upon its signing».
It is the first section of the document (a part of which is rendered classified and labeled «for official use only») that has caught our attention. Let us quote it and underline some important passages.
«1. Presidential Decree #828 of March 29, 2002, «On some issues of the personnel policies in the system of the governmental agencies» (Collected Acts of the President and the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2004, #17, Article 212):
the Registrar of the ranks of state officials and other public servants appointed by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan or with his approval, elected from among Presidential nominees as well as appointed with the approval of the Presidential Administration,
after the line:
«The First Deputy Head of the Department of Presidential Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan // by the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan — the Leader of the Nation // — // -»
must be supplemented with the following line:
«The First Deputy Chief of the State Guard Service — the Head of Security of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan — the Leader of the Nation // by the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan — the Leader of the Nation // — // -».
Obviously, President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev has the right to make changes to the acts signed by his predecessor. But whether he has the right to delegate his authorities related, in particular, to appointing the First Deputy Head of the Department of Presidential Affairs and the First Deputy Chief of the State Guard Service — the Head of Security of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan to anyone is a big question.
We cannot give an answer to it since it is a task for constitutional lawyers. However, we are concerned that other President’s authorities, for instant those related to declaring state of emergency or granting a pardon to sentenced prisoners, can also be delegated since now, theoretically speaking, it has become possible.
Moreover, the answers to the posed questions, today and sometime in the future, may turn out to be poles apart. Let’s say, if in ten years, the Constitutional Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan, having been turned into Constitutional Court, decides that it is illegal for the President of Kazakhstan to delegate their authorities to anyone, Nazarbayev will automatically turn into an usurper of power while Tokayev and other state officials involved in preparing and signing the two decrees of June 13, 2019, will become his accomplices.
Of course, today, there is zero likelihood for this scenario to come to life. But, after Nursultan Nazarbayev’s passing, it is certain to grow. And when Kazakhstan’s authoritarian political system and the super-presidential vertical become more and more feeble (collapse) or the persons in charge of them will find it necessary to «audit» the past history to their own advantage and to «delegitimize» the so-called «Leader of the Nation», it will reach the 99% mark.
The thing is that such accusations are quite effective, legally and bureaucratically simple and, with that, they allow not only to impose liability on the relatives and associates of the first and the second presidents of the Republic of Kazakhstan but also to strip them off their political influence in the country as well as their personal fortunes including the assets and the monetary assets abroad.
It is at that point that the Presidential Decree of June 13, 2019, is likely to serve as an excellent reason to assert claims against Nursultan Nazarbayev. Especially since, on one hand, it does not require a serious investigation, on the other, legally, may turn out to be so exhaustive that it will be used as a base for depriving Nazarbayev’s relatives and heirs of their fortunes and properties while not posing any threat to the system and the super-presidential vertical itself.
With all the theoreticality of the outlined scenario, its likelihood is rather high. If only because, in the Central Asian region, the practice of the new «leader of the nation» relying on the authority and achievements of the previous «leader of the nation» usually fails. This can be confirmed by the recent power transitions in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
In our opinion, the reason for that lies in the fact that the political regimes in the region do not have a program capable of uniting the people. Therefore, they are forced to turn the persons currently in charge of the state and the authoritarian political regime into ideologies.
As a result, say, in Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov’s personality cult has been replaced by that of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. While in Uzbekistan, even though the similar developments that have taken place there after Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s ascent to power are not as obvious as in Turkmenistan, a great number of Islam Karimov’s relatives and allies have lost not only their fortunes but freedom as well. And Kazakhstan is unlikely to be an exception.