There Is Logic in Tokayev’s Shakeups

On September 18, 2019, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kasym-Zhomart Tokayeb made several personnel decisions that have not been understood by the society due to their apparent illogicality. Moreover, on social-media and Telegram-channels, opinions have been expressed that these shakeups result from frictions with the Leader of the Nation and that Tokayev has carried them out without Nazarbayev’s approval.

In our opinion, Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev continues to report to Nursultan Nazarbayev on all the key issues concerning the internal and external policies. Of course, the Leader of the Nation allows his to express certain subjectivity in forming his own circle. And this, in our opinion, is an absolutely correct approach. If a chair is uncomfortable and there is a possibility to replace it with a more comfortable one, it can be and should be done.

Therefore, the only reasonable explanation for why Erlan Koshanov has replaced Krymbek Kusherbayev as the Head of the Presidential Administration probably lies in the fact that Tokayev is more comfortable working with the former than with the latter. Or he may have already decided that the former Governor of the Karaganda Region who, prior to this, had served as the Head of the Government Office would be able to do this job better.

With that, let us note that, in his latest personnel decisions, the acting head of the state has been rather polite in regard to everyone affected by them.

For example, he did not make Krymbek Kusherbayev go back to the region or retire due to his age (he was born in 1955) but has kept him in Astana and appointed him the State Secretary of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In other words, nominally, Kusherbayev has even got a raise and, even though he has much less power now, he has got many more honorary responsibilities than before. 

As for Marat Tazhin, according to the information provided by our insiders, the «behind-the-scenes» architect has long been wanting to retire from the state service especially since he has never had the power ambitions and always tried to stay in the shadows. So, for him, the «job transfer» is probably a relief and not a punishment.

The same can be said about the other «chain» of the personnel reshuffles.

According to the information from our sources, in this case, Zhenis Kasymbek’s replacement of Erlan Koshanov as the Governor of the Karaganda Region was the origin point. It was done upon request (order) of Nursultan Nazarbayev who had decided to «test out» the former Vice Prime Minister «afield».

The further shakeups are not just logical, they were unavoidable.

Minister of Industry and Infrastructural Development Roman Slklyar got a raise and became Vice Prime Minister who, among other things, is responsible for this sphere.

Beybut Atamkulov who had been working in this field in the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies, the Ministry for Investments and Development and the Ministry of Defense and Aerospace Industry has returned to the vacant chair.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Beybut Atamkulov has been replaced with career diplomat Mukhtar Tleuberdi who has been occupying the post of the Minister’s First Deputy for three years.

The only thing that seems somewhat illogical is that, on that same day September 18, Galymzhan Koyshybayev was appointed the head of the Prime Minister’s Office.

As follows from the press announcements, de-facto, it was a re-appointment since Koyshybayev took this position back in March 2019, but then it was done based on the governmental decree. The fact that Tokayev has re-appointed him via his own order testifies that the head of the state has either corrected the Prime Minister’s mistake or sent him about his business.

In conclusion, let us note that creating his own immediate circle is not simply a right of Kazakhstan’s second-in-line President but the governmental necessity. It is caused by the fact that Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev, as any other person occupying a position of a top-manager, would probably want to be surrounded by the people who could ensure his best performance, deliver his instructions and maintain control over their implementation.

As for Nursultan Nazarbayev giving his successor an opportunity to show independence, it means that the ever-growing idiocy of Akorda’s domestic policy (for instance, the repressions against dissidents) is generated at a level below.

However, it is this latter phenomenon that, in our opinion, testifies to the fact that the Kazakh authoritarian political system and the «super-presidential» vertical have become obsolete. Just as the socialist system and the USSR-style planned economy once became obsolete, too.


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