In the period of transition, the Kazakh elite clans are forced to change in order to strengthen their influence and, sometimes, to even simply stay afloat (this task is especially complicated given the non-public nature of the Kazakh political life). Dariga Nazarbayeva’s clan is no exception – her sons are grown now and can become real rivals to the “old guard”.
One of the most sensitive and practically irresolvable problems in Kazakhstan today is the non-public nature of the political life of the elite clans. Consequently, the decision-making process even regarding the key issues of the political, economic, social, etc. spheres is highly subjective. The decisions are often made in accordance with the private, and not the state’s, interests.
It is not surprising, then, that the realizations of such decisions are regularly met with a lack of support and, sometimes, even with a direct opposition from the state apparatus and the quasi-state agencies. We are not even mentioning the negative response in the society. Therefore, even the right governmental decisions remain unrealized and result in losses both material and moral.
Although the subject of the elite clans is constantly on the agenda, for the society, it is still a closed issue with no reliable information. With a rare exception, it is impossible to name the members of the clans and their interests. Thus, the mechanism of reconciling these interests is very much out of order.
During the first years of Kazakhstan’s independence, this issue was not a crucial one because both the society and the ruling elite were unstructured. There was chaos. Thanks to it, not only Nazarbayev and his closest allies but also other more or less active representatives of the elite were able to lobby and realize their ideas. Now all this is gone.
The state apparatus, in the framework of the authoritarian political system, has strengthened and stiffened. The effectiveness of the “supra-presidential” system, on the one hand, has improved because not a single official in the country dares to question the superiors’ orders. On the other hand, however, it has declined dramatically. Those who implement these unquestioned orders are only the cogs in the state machine. They are the people who have no personal interest to achieve success. They have no professional pride. And they are patriots only on paper.
When the oil prices were high and the state budget had enough financial possibilities, money resolved all the problems. Now it is not feasible. The business that depends on the state officials 200% can only solve its problems if the key Kazakh figures are interested in solving them as well.
Everyone in the country has experienced the non-public nature of the decision-making process including the foreign agencies and private persons who are interested in Kazakhstan for one reason or another. Given the economic, social, and political crises, the situation is becoming really dangerous both for the country and for the ruling elite. The latter will lose even more than the rest of the Kazakhs if the state and (or) political system collapse.
Only optimizing and improving the decision-making process at all levels, from the national one to the local one, will enable the state to improve the quality of management in the country. This, however, is impossible to achieve without making it public. Is Nazarbayev ready to take this crucial step and allow the elite clans to be publicly active? It is doubtful. Will he let them be publicly active via political parties and movements? Certainly, not.
Therefore, the intra-elite fights, wars, and collisions will continue, only with greater casualties. Those closest to Nazarbayev will win again. We are talking about the elite clans led by Dariga Nazarbayeva, Timur Kulibayev, Kayrat Satybaldy, Karim Masimov, Akhmetzhan Esimov, Bulat Utemuratov, Aliya Nazarbayeva.
Therefore, the talk in Astana that Dariga, together with her grown sons, is going to reform her clan after Nurlan Nigmatullin’s departure is important. The word is that Parliament Speaker Nigmatullin was offended by the lack of Dariga’s support in the latest intra-elite fight during which he had suffered several serious, albeit unnoticed by the public, defeats from his opponents.
The seriousness of Dariga’s intents is confirmed by the fact that she is gathering around her the so called “agashki”, the people who, without a direct access to power, are nonetheless respected among the Kazakh-speaking folks and have influence on the wide range of both the state officials and the science, culture, society leaders. It looks like these people consider Dariga, Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter, the president’s natural successor and the new leader.
Based on our information, these kinds of mobilization and consolidation processes are happening in practically all the elite groups. The people are being tested for their level of trust. The mutual obligations are being ascertained. The common grounds for a tighter cooperation are being searched for. Thus, the Kazakh ruling elite is coming to terms with the new circumstances including crowding together with their leaders.
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