The NSDP and Its Role in the Coming Elections

On July 30, 2020, the Exclusive.kz website published an online-interview with the three leaders of the Nationwide Social Democratic Party devoted to the upcoming parliamentary elections, the consolidation of the country’s democratic forces and the party’s reputation problems related to an attempt of certain people to gain control over the NSDP last year.

The party’s Chairman Askhat Rakhimzhanov as well as his deputies Adar Alibayev and Tazabek Sambetbay had participated in the talk. The talk itself had left one with mixed feelings. On one hand, the confidence of the interviewees seemed impressive, on the other, most of the answers they gave were of the generic nature (putting it mildly).

With that, if we are to believe Mr. Rakhimzhanov, the association currently consists of about 140 thousand people and one of the the NSDP website pages provides information on the addresses and the personal data of the leaders of its 18 regional (city) branches.

Another page describes the party’s structure that seems to be more than impressive. Especially the fact that Askhat Rakhimzhanov as the party’s Chairman acts as the top party’s leader and the party’s central apparatus, apart from the socio-economic and analytical centres, also includes an information centre that, in its turn, consists of a press-centre, a social network marketing department and a higher party school.

The thing is that, after last year’s scandals related to the almost successful attempt of editor and reporter Ermurat Bapi to take over the leadership of the party, the NSDP has shown nothing special in the country’s information space. The scarce news feed on the party’s website testifies to it.

In our opinion, the NSDP of today is but a form without a content. And it still has miles to travel to become a real political party, much less an opposition one.  Which, among other things, means that, in the upcoming Mazhilis and maslikhats elections, it will assume the role of a dummy. And this explains rather nicely why the NSDP has escaped the fate of the Alga! People’s Party and the Communist Party of Kazakhstan that were shut down for “extremism”: from the internal political standpoint, the NSDP is quite harmless and, at the same time, allows the authorities to imitate the democratic nature of the political system and the elections.

It looks like this was the reason why the attempt of two Londoners, ex-Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and former Governor of the Atyrau region Bergey Ryskaliyev, to bring Ermurat Bapi to the NSDP was put down. Akorda and the Library do not need a party capable of muddy the campaign waters even a little bit. They need the party a la Kosanov, the one that will play along with Nur Otan, Ak Zhol and the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan in the fight for the seats in the new composition of the Mazhilis and the maslikhats of all levels.

Therefore, we say a definite “no” to the question whether the NSDP has a chance to become a Parliament party. But, as for bringing its representatives to individual maslikhats, especially in the country’s West, it may turn out to be possible. In our opinion, a lot will depend of the two factors: first, whether the NSDP’s current leaders will be able to find the money for the upcoming election campaigns, second, whether the protest-oriented groups (especially the youth groups) will join them.

In theory, all these things can happen. And not only because the number of the protest-oriented Kazakhs has significantly grown lately (among wealthy people, too) but also due to the fact that the conflict within the ruling elite has notably escalated, and this is considering that, even before, this elite was nothing but a classic terrarium in which, given an opportunity, all the inhabitants are prepared to eat each other or shoot each other in the eye.

Amid all this, the NSDP may quite easily receive a secret yet effective support of those who want to do damage to their opponents and competitors at the regional level and push them away (or, in case they fail to do so, to present them as people incapable of managing the region in the eyes of the Centre).

It is this tactics that, given the current complex situation, may turn out to be more than successful. Therefore, the NSDP still has a small chance for success. Will it be able to take it? Time will tell. One does not want to croak ill but one should mention that, even at the best of its times, the NSDP was not known for its fighting spirit and determination.


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