On the Failure of September 25th Protests

The protests that Mukhtar Ablyazov and his supporters tried to hold in several Kazakh cities on September 25, 2020, failed to materialise after all. However, it would be wrong to say that Ablyazov has lost the battle to the Elbasy while the Library and Akorda have won.

Let us explain why we think so.

The thing is that the attempt to take to streets dozens of people most of whom are known to the secret service and live under constant surveillance was doomed from the very beginning. The NSC and the Ministry of Interior, with the help of the other state structures first of all the Public Prosecution Office, the courts and the Governor’s Offices, were able to neutralise most of the protestors before the protests even began. And those few who were not neutralised beforehand were almost immediately grabbed by their arms as they approached the highly advertised gathering points and then taken to police stations.

Moreover, on September 25, the police and the NSC officers were detaining not only the protestors but innocent bystanders and casual observers as well. Why? Probably just in case as well as for the purpose of demonstrating their «can-do» spirit and abilities to the bosses.

In view of this, a legitimate question arises — why does Mukhtar Ablyazov, despite the failures of the previous protest attempts, continue to pursue the same kind of tactics? And why do the Library and Akorda suppress these attempts so harshly even though the small and peaceful protest acts do not pose the slightest threat to the authorities today?

In our opinion, the explanation lies in the deadlock in which both sides have found themselves.

The thing is that Mr. Ablyazov currently resides in a relative safety of Paris. All the previous efforts of the Kazakh authorities to get him extradited to his homeland had failed. As for organising his criminal persecution in France, it doesn’t seem to be feasible. On the other hand, the Library and Akorda have achieved the domestic political victory by stripping Ablyazov of any kind of real influence inside the country. But alas, they still cannot manage to «finish him off» for good.

Consequently, the authorities have been faced with the necessity not so much to fight their political opponent as to save their reputation in the eyes of the Kazakh and foreign public whose opinion on the matter can be boiled down to a simple formula — since a person continues to openly oppose the state, the latter is not omnipotent. Apart from that, they cannot let Ablyazov’s supporters achieve even the smallest success since it may contribute to increasing their number. 

It is absolutely impossible to predict when and how this political confrontation will end. The unsuccessful attempts to organise the protests inside Kazakhstan reflect positively on Ablyazov abroad where detaining peaceful citizens only for their wish to express their demands to the authorities are automatically perceived as the absence of democracy in the country.

Consider, all this is happening at the time when Kazakhstan is risking to become (perhaps it already has) the territory where the geopolitical interests of the USA and EU on one hand and Russia and China on another cross their paths in the rough style. In other words, Washington and Brussels may blame Kazakhstan for the despotism of the authorities and the absence of democracy the way it has been done in regard to Russia and China. And the West has got more than enough instruments to pressurise the Library and Akorda. 

In these circumstances, Mukhtar Ablyazov’s tactics that fe-facto boils down to finding supporters on social networks and mobilising them to conduct public protests is similar to an attempt to set fire in a damp forest — lots of smoke and very little success, yet it’s still possible that, at some point, a strike of a match will give the expected result and the fire will propagate. 

At the same time, the tactics of the Kazakh authorities that boils down to the personal pressurising of those who dare to follow Ablyazov’s rallying cries and, at the same time, turning a blind eye to the same kind of activities on the part of their other opponents that belong to different political sects is similar to hunting down «the wrong kind» of bees that produce «the wrong kind of honey».   

The passive response of the main body of the Kazakh citizens indifferent to both the Library and Akorda as well as to Mukhtar Ablyazov shows that the confrontation between them may very well grad on for several years if not decades.

On the other hand, the Elbasy’s archenemy is carrying out a very important task (perhaps without even realising it) by diverting the attention of the authorities from the other domestic political players who, contrary to Ablyazov, have serious financial capabilities, a significant number of supporters and possess assets in Kazakhstan that must be protected.

In our opinion, it is these people (groups, clans) that, when the time comes, will be able to carry out protest acts akin to those of December 16, 1986 and of 2011.

Therefore, the current stalemate situation may change suddenly and without a warning. However, for this to happen, Mukhtar Ablyazov must: a) receive a serious financial support either from Kazakhstan or foreign states, financial/political groups or figures of influence; b) develop and articulate an idea (slogans) that may be turned into an arm of flesh; c) gather around the activists who, in their turn, will be able to become a centre of attraction to other people.

Is there a chance for this to happen? We cannot tell. However, we are certain that, if the Library and Akorda do manage to «finish him off» (be it in the physical, financial or reputational way), the only thing the authorities are going to gain is a short break. For we all know that nature abhors a vacuum, so if not Ablyazov, it’s going to be someone else. 

Who in particular? In our opinion, it can be practically any person in the country expect perhaps Nursultan Nazarbayev and some people from his immediate circle and family; the people that, at some point, are going to be thrown out of the pack and will be forced to defend themselves.


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