The Downbeat Outcomes of the «Protest» Year

The end of 2019 is approaching and the time to review its results has come. Including the results of the domestic policy. In our opinion, the First President of Kazakhstan and «the Leader of the Nation» is well positioned to celebrate a tactical success — the handing over of the presidential chair to Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev went relatively quietly and happened without significant incidents.

Even though the authoritarian political system and the super-presidential power vertical have acquired a unique superstructure consisting of the two epicenters of power; starting from March, these epicenters have not yet quarreled with each other and haven’t started a fight.

Moreover, Nursultan Nazarbayev and his immediate circle have managed to (more of less) preserve the infamous internal political stability and, if not weaken the protest sentiment in the society in general, then at least not to allow it to take to the streets on a massive scale.

Of course, one should acknowledge that the society itself is, to a large extent, responsible for that. The overwhelming majority has remained inert; besides, the Leader of the Nation’s political opponents have had their hand in it as well. In order to explain what we mean, let us first resolve Kazakhstan’s protest potential into its components.

Currently, in our opinion, it consists of:

1) the dissatisfaction of the main body of the citizens with the low level of their income and, therefore, their life;

3) the discontent of a relatively small number of citizens with the authoritarian political system and with the fact that the latter is seriously limiting their civic right and freedoms;

4) the dissatisfaction of a part of the elite with the fact that it is shoved aside from «the pie» (no manner which one — be it in the business, the domestic policy or power).

It is hard to estimate the exact number of people belonging to one mentioned group or another, especially since the same person may belong to even say three groups simultaneously, but, approximately, (if we take the total number of Kazakh citizens over 18 years old to mean 1000), it can be estimated as the ratio of 800:50:10:1.  

We will stipulate that this is an uncorroborated assessment based purely on expert knowledge. It obviously requires an elaboration and verification; nonetheless, it allows us to articulate the problem.  

So, in our opinion, starting from March 2019, «the Library» and Akorda have been acting rather intelligently in the domestic political space.

Why do we think so? Not only because the authorities have managed to (in general) reduce the upsurge of the protest sentiment and escaping it to the streets which can be confirmed by the fact that there was a hundredfold less people participating in the last sanctioned and unsanctioned meetings in Almaty and Nur-Sultan than in the protests of the end of the spring — the beginning of the summer. We are also talking about the quality of the authorities’ actions in general.

For instance, in order to pacify the massive-scale dissatisfaction with the level of incomes and life, «the Library» and Akorda have increased the social support of the citizens, among other things, via the onetime consumer loan write off, the creation of the targeted social aid, the simplification of the mortgage loan provision mechanism and so on and so forth.

The Kazakhs dissatisfied with the quality of life in the country were, on one hand, «gifted» with the National Council of Public Trust (NCPT), the possibility to speak publicly including at the sanctioned and even the unsanctioned meetings, to initiate the founding of political parties, to participate in the social and other activities; on the other hand, they were «warned» hard and fast, via the demonstrative repressions against the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan-2 activists that their association with Nazarbayev’s political enemies may turn out to be harmful to their health and future.

And, finally, those few who did dare to speak openly and publicly against the authoritarian political system were isolated from the first two protest-oriented groups of citizens by the authorities. Moreover, in the former group, the authorities have managed to organize internal squabbles and they are seriously weakening it.

By the way, Mukhtar Ablyazov, the Leader of the Nation’s main opponent, has had a serious hand in all of this with his reluctance to acknowledge the other activists as his equals as well as with his accusing them of collaborating with the authorities.

As a result of all this, the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and «the Leader of the Nation» Nursultan Nazarbayev and his immediate circle that includes, among others, President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev, have managed not to allow for the first three mentioned components of Kazakhstan’s protest potential to unify. In other words, they have separated them in space and time.

For this reason, we believe that, in this particular case, the authoritarian regime and the super-presidential vertical have, once again, defeated the society and the people by preserving the existing status-quo.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that this kind of internal political success on the part the authorities may be of the tactical nature only. Moreover, it is becoming and will invariable serve as the reason for their strategic defeat since it automatically precludes the citizens from being proactive which is imperative if one wants to increase the country’s overall competitive abilities.


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