Without Nazarbaev, but still with Nazarbaev?

«I don’t believe that president Nazarbaev will enter presidential elections in 2020». This statement by the head of the senate of parliament of Kazakhstan Kasym-Jomart Tokaev, which was made by him to the journalist of British TV company BBC Steven Sackur, blew up in Kazakhstani media. Is the transit of power, around which many bones were broken in heated arguments in recent years, about to happen?

«I think that in 2020 we will have presidential elections with other candidates, without president Nazarbaev’s participation» — Tokaev expanded on the subject in the interview to BBC, having specified that the last word on the matter, will be after elbasy.

Informational bomb has exploded. Media was widely quoting Tokaev’s interview and experts started to ponder the possibility of new configuration of power appearing in Kazakhstan.

Coordinate release

«This media game shows that there is no agreement within the elite regarding the transit. Thus, pressure towards the head of the state from those desiring to keep Nazarbaev as president, and games will remain. Given this situation within the elite, the probability is high the president will participate in the next election» — thinks the general director of Central Asian fund for development of democracy, political science PhD Tolgonai Umbetalieva.

In her words, the entourage of Kazakhstani president often uses such excuses as «a big request from Kazakhstani public» to explain elbasy’s decisions, and she doesn’t exclude the possibility that this move will be used again, in order to facilitate president’s participation in the 2020 elections.

There’s only one factor, in Umbetalieva’s opinion, that allows to assume, that Nazarbaev will not participate in the upcoming elections — and that is Tokaev’s statement.

«Kasym-Jomart Tokaev usually doesn’t participate in domestic politics without the green light from the head of state. At least that is the prevailing view among political community. Thus, many people took his statements seriously; even though, Tokaev himself, in his explanation to Kazakhstani media made a remark, that the final decision about participating in the elections will be made by the head of the state himself».

Signaling to the West

In the opinion of former diplomat Kazabek Baisebaev, what was said by Tokaev to BBC channel — is first of all a signal sent to foreign partners, that Kazakhstan will have a new head of state in 2 years.

«In Kazakhstan chairman of the senate is the second person the country after president. Also, Tokaev is the diplomat number one, thus he will think twice before talking. Thus his words have a foundation and quite possibly, the nation’s leader won’t run for president in 2020. Moreover, the parliament has approved legislation about the special status of the security council with a life-long chairmanship of elbasy. This also gives ground to say that Nazarbaev won’t participate in elections anymore».

In other words, in his opinion, it is likely, that Kazakhstan is entering a new stage of development, where the place and role of Nazarbaev will be somewhat different.

The scheme similar to Iranian

Political expert Ruslan Tusupbekov, who directed our attention to the fact that on June 28th Constitutional assembly of RK recognized the law «On security council» consistent with the constitution partially agrees with Kazbek Beisebaev.

«A month ago Kazakhstani parliament passed the project of this legislation. It gives Nazarbaev the right to have a life-long chairmanship of the security council as the head of the constitutional institution. Powers of council are vast: issues of domestic and foreign policy, defense, discussion of candidacies for the role of central and local executive bodies of power and more. Judging from this I assume that Nazarbaev really wont be in the 2020 elections. At least, the possibility of this is quite high. Especially because this was said by Tokaev himself and as a seasoned diplomat he never says things for no reason»  — Tusupbekov clarified his position.

Admittedly, in his opinion, there is option on the table that elbasy might run in elections — in case they won’t be able to fund a suitable candidacy for replacement. «But this option is unlikely, because the successor will be found in the remaining two years, if he wasn’t already».

Political expert thinks that what is happening  is in fact the operation of appointing a successor.

«A clear scheme can be traced: a new president is elected in 2020, whom Nazarbaev wil „lead“ until his death, since the position of chairman of security council is for a lifetime and is highly personalized, i.e. made & customized for elbasy. This role allows to control activity of a new president, chairmen of parliament’s chambers, prime-minister and all key ministers, since they all are members of security council. This allows to preserve powers of current president, until his successor can stand in his own feet».

In the meantime, in Tusupbekov’s opinion, «the system if government in the state — presidential republic — will formally remain, but essentially it will be something akin to Iranian model of government — there is a popularly elected president and there is an ayatollah».

«I hope we will have that system temporarily. But again, under a condition that the second president after many years will not want to use it to then transfer power to his own successor» — summarized Tusupbekov.

Ruslan Tusupbekov’s opinion coincides with that of political expert Sultanbek Sultangaliev, who thinks that with passing of the legislation «On security council» and addendums to the law on «elections» last blocks were laid to the pyramid of transit of power, as a result of which new political construct will appear — «Without Nazarbaev, but still with Nazarbaev».

«Kazakhstan will switch to an Iranian political model, but of a secular type, in which all levers of power still remain under elbasy’s control» — thinks Sultangaliev.

What is so special about Tokaev’s statement?

At the same time political expert Talgat Kaliev, in his telegram channel wrote that there is nothing special about Tokaev’s statement.

«In essence if you analyze Tokaev’s statement there is nothing special or concrete in it. It is completely in line with the spirit of global press, allowing for such free-speech statements. If any congressman can share his opinion on BBC regarding whether Trump will run in the next elections, then a Kazakhstani senator, more so the main one must demonstrate a similar level of freedom» — thinks Talgat Kaliev.

Another issue is how necessary are signals about the onset of transfer to our society? «Unlikely that Akorda will warn the population in such manner about preparation. And this isn’t about domestic political traditions, but rather the nature of this. Any hints about the change of power in any country provoke nervousness in society as well as investment circles» — assumes Kaliev.

«As for the transit itself, enough mutually-reinforcing and at the same time autonomous and alternative and painful options have piled up. This includes the institute of elbasy, as a political figure, having enough powers and influence, on political processes as well as primary personnel decisions, and the institution of Chairman of the new security council. All of them allow to balance the system under any transit scenarios. The only issue is that of personnel, occupying key positions, which will become stakeholders of the new power structure».

…In other words, today the struggle on the political Olympus of Kazakhstan is not for the main position but rather for positions, allowing to secure maximum political influence. As for Nazarbaev himself, as many political experts, observers and experts predict, he is destined to remain at the helm for life, regardless of whether he will run for elections in 2020 or not.


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