Tokayev’s Shrewd Move

On April 26, 2022, the unscheduled meeting of Kazakhstan’s “ruling” Amanat party was held in the Kazakh capital (it was the third session in two months). The name of the party can be translated as “the legacy of the forefathers”. However, there exists another translation of this title that, in our opinion, represents the nature of this quasi-civil organisation much better. And perhaps even predicts its future.

Here is a translation of the word ‘amanat’ according to (translation in this article from Russian into English – edit).

“1) something entrusted for safekeeping or for handing it over to a third party, 2) possessory pledge (jurisprudence), 3) order, responsibility, obligation, community directive, electoral directive (figurative) – a) to give a directive to someone, b) to entrust something to someone for safekeeping, 4) possessory pledge, hostage, taking hostage, what has been entrusted to one for safekeeping, should be safeguarded with honour (historical), what has been temporarily entrusted by god (rel.), to meet one’s maker”.  

Now then, in our opinion, the fourth (historical) version of the translation – “hostage” – is much more appropriate in this particular case.

The thing is that the political party that, up until recently, had been called Nur Otan was created by Nursultan Nazarbayev’s command back in 1999 in order to serve as an important but, by no means, crucial element of the authoritarian political system and the “super-presidential” vertical. The main purpose of the party was to imitate the existence of democracy and democratic procedures in Kazakhstan. 

However, after the January “explosion” of the protest sentiment in Kazakhstan when the Nur Otan offices were the first ones to get attacked by the riotous mob while all the party members (from nobodies to highest officials) were keeping silent, it became evident – the party is not going to take any active steps (let alone show support).

However, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev cannot suddenly dissolve the party. First of all, due to the fact that it has been firmly built in the country’s political system. For, it is through this party that Akorda forms all the elective authorities in the country, from regional maslikhats to the Senate, and it is through this party that it fills almost all the top leadership posts in the governmental agencies with the desired appointees (either directly or through alignment).

As a result, the Nur Otan party has de-facto found itself a hostage of its past and of the internal political situation while President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has found himself a hostage of Nur Otan.

And now, two months after Tokayev became the leader of the party that, by that time, had already been renamed as “Amanat”, he has torn up his formal ties with it by stepping down as the party’s leader, handing this position over to Mazhilis Speaker Erlan Koshanov and giving up his party membership.

At the same time, Nazarbayev’s successor remains Amanat’s hostage since everyone in the country knows that the “ruling” political force is still being controlled by Akorda and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev personally. 

Moreover, they will continue being in need of this party for quite some time. And not as a civil organisation that is there to listen to the citizens’ problems, generate ideas and implement them, but as a handy tool.

For this reason, contrary to the pro-governmental media and Internet-users that are singing praises to Akorda and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (saying that, in terms of the party building and competition in Kazakhstan, it all has changed for the best), we regard Tokayev leaving the party as a shrewd move that doesn’t really change anything.

Therefore, we cannot but admire the diplomatic skills and the political cynicism of the Kazakh President who didn’t even blink when he said to the members of the third unscheduled party congress -

“I have already said that I am to step down as the party’s leader and leave the party. The time has come to do so. I have made a decision to terminate my authorities as the Amanat party chairman and withdraw my membership effective today. Certainly, this is a symbolic step.

In view of this, I would like to thank everyone for their trust and support shown to me during the presidential elections. I am also grateful for you trusting me with the party’s reigns of power at such an important time. Together, we have done an amasing job.

However, time goes on. A lot has changed. We have got enormous challenges ahead of us. Today, our country is undergoing a deep demonopolisation of all the spheres. I think is wise that the head of the state does not give preference to any individual political party, in other words, the head of the state should stay politically neutral. This is my unshakable belief”, said Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. 

We at believe that this is but a blatant lie since the Amanat party is still going to be controlled by Akorda and will carry out its orders. As for the President’s political neutrality, it will continue to exist as before – in word and on paper. What else can one expect from the man who is trying to square the circle and move forward by taking baby steps?


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