Zhana Kazakhstan: Evaluation and Prediction

The overseas trip of the ‘Zhana Kazakhstan’ Forum representatives has once again drawn attention to this not yet officially registered organization. Therefore, the discussion of whether it is an attempt to unify the oppositional forces or simply Akorda’s next project aimed to deflect attention away from the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan — 2 and Mukhtar Ablyazov has received a new push.

We believe it is senseless to try and find a single answer to this question since, according to the ironic notion from the classic «Twelve Chairs» by Ilya Ilf and Evgeniy Petrov, any «agreement is a product of the complete nonresistance of the parties». Therefore, one can say that each ‘Zhana Kazakhstan’ member is pursuing their own goals.

Here is a list of the persons who, in our opinion, are the key participants of the project: former Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Republican People’s Party leader Akedzhan Kazhgeldin, ex-Governor of the Atyrau region Bergey Ryskaliyev, and former leader (as well as owner) of the ‘Rukhaniyat’ Party Serikzhan Mambetalin. Note that the first and the third persons on the list are UK citizens, the second one, according to some sources, has received (or is in the process of receiving) political asylum in this country. 

Only the mentioned persons know the reasons why they suddenly decided to organize the ‘Zhana Kazakhstan’ Forum, however, one can assume that it was Mukhtar Ablyazov, the long-life opponent of the Kazakhstan authorities recently released from prison in France, who inadvertently provoked them. With his appearance in the Kazakhstan domestic political space, he has restored the political «ruler» in the country which, after the 2012 destruction of the ‘Agla’ People’s Party, was reduced to the Leader of the Nation and Akorda.

When the emptiness occurred between the «ruler’s» extremes, the appearance of some political and pseudo-political organizations was just a matter of time. Therefore, we believe it would be incorrect to call ‘Zhana Kazakhstan’ Nazarbayev Administration’s (in particular, Marat Tazhin’s) project. The fact that the latter has probably infiltrated it with «their» people is another matter.

At the same time, it would be incorrect to characterize ‘Zhana Kazakhstan’ as a union of the oppositional forces of the country. Simply because its members, with all their proclaimed opposition sentiment (that seems very dubious at times) represent only themselves. Besides, this Forum is an association of several dozen people at best. In other words, it is nothing but a kind of non-government organization (or association), one of many in the country but with a bias for politics.

However, since the ‘Zhana Kazakhstan’s founders clearly pose no threat for Akoda (otherwise, they would have been behind bars) and the level of the authorities’ aggressiveness towards Akezhan Kazhageldin and Bergey Ryskaliyev (including the judiciary and the propaganda kinds) is a couple of times lower than towards Mukhtar Ablyazov, the ‘Zhana Kazakhstan’ Forum has a chance to be officially registered by the Kazakhstan legal authorities and to continue existing.

As for the prospects, one must understand that ‘Zhana Kazakhstan’ is just an envelop for the activities of not more than a couple of dozen people united not so much by the common philosophy but by their own plans, calculations, and hopes. Therefore, everything will depend on whether they will be able to attract new members and whether they are ready to do it. But, most importantly, it will depend on whether the Kazakh citizens will trust them, support them and, if yes, to what extent.

In theory, any non-government organization consisting of several dozen members with hundreds of activists, of the regional and districts branches, even given the unavoidable self-limitation in the political activity, can certainly become influential. Which means it can represent and fight for the citizens’ interests (including those in the political sphere) by using the political methods. 

Of course, the feasibility of this scenario unfolding for ‘Zhana Kazakhstan’, in our opinion, is close to a zero. And not only because it requires the significant financial investments and the effective PR-campaign apart from the clear target-setting and the high-quality human resources. The thing is that Akorda is unlikely to allow for the promotion of this kind of organization amid the aggravated confrontation inside the ruling elite and the unavoidable power transit in the country.

Therefore, we will dare to make the following prediction regarding the future of this project.

  • First, the association will be officially registered by the state authorities;
  • second, it will try to play the part of the constructive opposition. That very same part that had earlier been performed by the ‘Ak Zhol’ Party under the leadership of Alikhan Naymenov;
  • third, it will start playing the nationalist card to attract the Kazakh nationalist to the organization;
  • fourth, it will target the very electorate that is not ready to risk joining the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan — 2 and Ablyazov.

However, the Kazakhstan practice suggests that such associations may exist for quite a long period of time. Obviously, under the condition that they receive the financial support enough to imitate violent activity. Besides, the organization’s top-management will not wash their dirty laundry in public even amid fighting with one another. And, of course, if they can restrain their activists from the irrational (in other words, irritating for Akorda and the local «headmen») moves.


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