Does the NSDP Have a Future?

Even though, on August 16, 2019, the leader of Kazakhstan’s «ruling» party Nur Otan announced that the next parliamentary elections will be held within the constitutionally determined time limit, it is hard to believe this is going to happen. The usual Kazakh practice shows that, as a true leader of the authoritarian political system and the super-presidential power vertical, Nursultan Nazarbayev can turn the tables at any time without any losses.

In view of this, here is a question: will a truly opposition-leaning political party participate in the next scheduled (unscheduled) parliamentary elections?

We believe, at this point, the answer can only be negative. According to the existing internal political practices, creating and legalizing a new party capable of participating in elections can only happen with Akorda’s approval. As an example, let us recall the longstanding struggle of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan and Alga for the right to register that, eventually, ended in failure.

In this context, the Nationwide Social Democratic Party that has miraculously survived the tempestuous events that took place before 2012 cannot but attract attention. Starting from April 26, 2019, it is being led by well-known Kazakh journalist Ermurat Bapi.

Bapi was elected the party’s leader at the NSDP special congress when his predecessor Zharmakhan Tuyakbay who had been leading the party since the day of its foundation in September 2006 announced his decision to resign.

We must note that, in the past, Bapi as well as Amirzhan Kosanov who participated in the recent presidential elections as an «independent» candidate used to be an ally of the former Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan and former leader of the no longer existing Republican People’s Party of Kazakhstan (RPPK).

In our opinion, the NSDP that, at its special congress held on April 26, 2019, apart from electing the new leader, also changed its name (now it is called NSDP Akikat) has been caught in a trap. On one hand, it can no longer lie low since, on the eve of the parliamentary elections, it is simply impossible. On the other hand, it has neither well-developed organizational structures nor enough activists and informational/financial resources to support at least some kind of noticeable political activity.

Nonetheless, this party has a chance to not simply participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections but to do so in a rather notable and loud fashion. For this, the NSDP needs: 1) new people in the management capable of attracting (leading) as many new members as possible, 2) new ideas capable of attracting the attention of politically and socially active Kazakhs and convincing them to support the party, 3) large cash inflows.

Of course, there is yet another way to gain the massive-scale support of the Kazakhs. However, given the current conditions, it will be a short and self-defeating one. We are talking about an assertive political self-presentation. Akin to that practiced by today’s Nursultan Nazarbayev’s main opponent Mukhtar Ablyazov. However, neither Ermurat Bapi not Akezhan Kazhegeldin together with former Governor of the Atyrau Region Bergey Ryskaliyev whose shadows could be clearly seen behind the OSDP current leader’s back is ready to commit this «suicide» (read here — text available in Russian and watch here).

Photo from Ermurat Bapi’s Facebook Page 

And indeed, they do not have any real reason to do so. After all, an officially registered (albeit inactive) party in Kazakhstan is an asset whose value may increase, especially after Nursultan Nazarbayev’s passing when the process of the power transition reaches the next step.

In our opinion, a lot will depend on whether Akrzhan Kazhegeldin and Bergey Ryskaliyev (currently permanently residing in London) will be able to make a deal with Akorda that will involve if not a mutually beneficial cooperation then the preservation of some kind of neutrality.

The fact that this is quite feasible can be proved, for instance, by the following example: the interview with the former Prime Minister entitled «Akezhan Kazhegeldin: the Kazakh in the uniform will not go against the Kazakh in the civvies» was published inside the country without any consequences for the resource that published it. Obviously, if any Kazakh media published this kind of interview with Mukhtar Ablyazov, it would have been already closed and its editor-in-chief condemned for cooperating with the extremist and extremism.

Besides, the Kazakh participants of several meetings with Kazhegeldin and Ryskaliyev (last one was held in Paris) were not subject to any repressions as oppose to the supporters of the DCK-2.

For Akorda, the NSDP’s participation in the next parliamentary elections will, undoubtedly, be a positive since it will show to the international community that Kazakhstan has moved towards democracy.

As for the NSDP, the positive is that the party will, first of all, receive a significant financial support that will allow it not only to conduct the pre-election campaign relatively actively but to «revive» the local party organizations, second of all, present a real opportunity to remind the voters of the party’s existence which will significantly ease its resurrection or, at least, the reinforcement of the party troops, third, it can attract those who have already come into the spotlight in the domestic political space as the party members.

Of course, this kind of tactics will be very similar to that of Amirzhan Kosanov who was able to successfully convert his oppositional past into his personal material security albeit by virtue of betraying one and a half million of Kazakh citizens who gave him their votes at the early presidential elections. But this will be the subject of another publication.


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