In What Way Kazakhstan Outrides Russia

On August 22, 2020, prominent Russian periodical Expert published Andrey Aleksandrov’s article titled “Axiology* of the State. Pacta Sunt Servanda**. The article was written in the aftermath of the recent events in Russia where the Constitution of the country had been changed in a cardinal way and President Vladimir Putin got an opportunity to be elected the head of the state twice more.

The author believes that “On July 1, 2020, Russia drew a like between its past historical and political function and a new stage of development. The changes made in the Constitution are fundamental in the understanding of the path the country is choosing for itself. A number of the articles are cardinally changing the civil and international legislature. The system of power and the appointment principles have been changed as well. All these amendments do transform the country into a new one and we will all have to adapt to this new reality”.

In our opinion, Aleksandrov’s article is of interests not only to the Russians and the Russia expert community but also to the Kazakhs and the Kazakh expert community as well as to the opponents of Akorda and the Library. For Nursultan Nazarbayev’s passing and, therefore, his exiting the political arena will lead to similar consequences as the recent constitutional “counter-revolution” in Russia.

Moreover, it will force the Republic and all those who, today, have an opportunity to express and promote their interests to make a new social pact. Or force them to agree with it. This is what makes the weak or slippery spots which, in the author’s opinion, may make Vladimir Putin “fall flat” or “lose his footing” particularly interesting.

First of all, there are regional elites. Citing the case of ex-governor of the Khabarovsk region Sergey Furgal, Andrey Aleksandrov writes that even though “today, officials are being put to prison all over the country on a regular basis and such arrests no longer surprise anyone, nonetheless, “the Furgal casus” has demonstrated the reverse side of the coin”. This is what is consists of (quoting):

“Conducting any protest action is possible when the three obligatory conditions are met. First, there must be a social group with accumulated protest sentiments. Even a small, marginal (from the majority’s point of view) but well-organised group may serve as a necessary instrument for conducting protest actions. Second, there must be a participation of a structure, a group, an organisation capable of creating and implementing the necessary dramatic act of a protest, conducting the management of the people and administrating the processes. Third, there must be a principal, someone who sets a mission, formulates the end goal and provides the resources”.

Then the author analyses the situation in Khabarovsk, but we are interested in Kazakhstan. The thing is that when the authoritarian political system and the “super-presidential” vertical under Nursultan Nazarbayev’s leadership got stronger and was almost transformed into a hereditary monarchy, the biggest part of the regional elites had to accept the rules of the game that boils down to a single phrase “the Elbasy is always right” and “if he is not right, you should come to him and ask him for a favour”.

Now, when Nursultan Nazarbayev has almost become history, it is obvious that the ruling elite and the entire state vertical are going to go through gigantic turmoils – simply because the epicentre of power will disappear and a new, equally important one has not appeared yet.

Moreover, Kossym-Jomart Tokayev is very likely to never become Nazarbayev’s true successor due to his age and the absence of a significant number of supporters, huge personal fortune and political assertiveness.

The next point of Andrey Aleksandrov that, in our opinion, is applicable to Kazakhstan (especially now) is this. In the words of the author:

”The Kremlin has always been relying on the ruling party in solving the regional conflicts which seems to be quite logical, otherwise, why does one need “the party of power”. The only thing is that, for the past two years, “Edinaya Russia” has not been showing any activities on the political agenda . This is affecting its rating and the ability to influence people’s minds and hearts in the regions. And if we take a look at the results of the elections for the past two years, we will see a clear trend towards the loss of the party’s leadership in practically all the regions of Russia. And this is in spite of the fact that, in every region, “Edinaya Russia” had previously band together the regional elites, the administrative and financial resources”.   

But this very thing has already happened in Kazakhstan with the Nur Otan party, and much earlier at that. Nazarbayev’s party has long been transformed into a structure that no one takes into account and thinks of only in a case of necessity, for instance, on the eve of some elections. Therefore, in Kazakhstan, the demand for a systemic renewal of the party of power had ripen much earlier than in Russia but has started to be fulfilled only recently and, as usual, from “the above”.

In Aleksandrov’s opinion, “the party of power” must become the presidential tool and, if it claims that it is the party of the President, then Vladimir Putin must be its leader. Then the President will have a direct opportunity to conduct structural changes in the party and hold the party members responsible for their actions”.

If we were to translate this into the Kazakh realia, it would mean that Nur Otan must be chaired by Kossym-Jomart Tokayev which would be impossible while the Elbasy was alive. Therefore, in this area too, the political reforms are to be blocked for an indefinite period of time.

The third point of the author of “The Axiology of the State” has to do with the new political system and with how and by whom it will be formed.

Andrey Aleksandrov writes: “Unfortunately, the only thing that our opposition has learned to do is to make populist statements. There is very little constructive work, there are even less concrete suggestions. Mostly, what we have is emotions. Nonetheless, “Edinaya Rossiya” is losing the majority not just in the municipal and regional councils, it’s losing the entire regions where, due to the high percent of the protest voting, random opposition candidates get elected”.

Since, in Kazakhstan, the upcoming Mazhilis and Maslikhats elections will be conducted on the party basis principle, Akorda and the Library will formally not be facing the “loss of the regions”. But only formally, because the regions may start moving towards the rule of the regional elites which will become noticeable only when conflicts between these elites and the centre get started.

In conclusion, let us point out these three important circumstances:   

  1. Kazakhstan and Russia are moving along the same political trajectory;
  2. the authoritarian political system of Kazakhstan is outriding the authoritarian political system of Russia by approximately 10-15 years (what happened in Russia in 2020 took place in Kazakhstan around 2007);
  3. In ten years, Russia will find itself in the same situation that Kazakhstan is facing today – the necessity to live through the authoritarian leader exiting life and political landscape.

 *Axiology (translated from Ancient Greek) – the philosophical study of value and value judgements

**Pacta sunt servanda (Lat.) – “Agreements must be kept”


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