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Political headquarters of President Tokayev

photo: orda.kz
24 May 2024

The Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (hereinafter the «EO»), which serves as the backbone of the political institution of the presidency, is a core element of centralized public power in Kazakhstan. Officially, the activities of the EO are aimed at providing routine support to the head of state; therefore, it operates under his direct leadership and patronage. In effect, the EO has nearly unlimited authority, including that vested in it by its personnel policy, as well as through its direct influence on other state bodies.

What many post-Soviet countries, including Russia and Kazakhstan, have in common is that their presidency has priority in many respects over the separation of powers, and acts as a supreme arbiter. The Executive Office of the President is essentially a single system of control, a unique set of functions, goals and objectives implemented by all bodies of state power and administration with the purpose of achieving the strategic goals of governance. At the same time, experts view the EO as the least researched state body of superpower that needs to be studied in great detail.

General information

The Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK) is a state body which was established in accordance with Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 2565 dated October 20, 1995. Since then, the structure of the EO has undergone numerous reforms, and was last amended by President Tokayevs Decree of September 1, 2023. It should be noted that the EO staff is selected personally by the President and is directly subordinate and accountable to him. Experts estimate that the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan employs about 450 people, with an annual budget of approximately 250 million dollars. EO employees largely guide the national foreign and domestic policy, control the execution of instructions from the head of state, and keep the President informed on the state of affairs in the country and abroad. According to the official website of the President of Kazakhstan, «the Executive Offices mission is a qualitative and timely informational-analytical, legal, protocol-organizational, documentation and other provision of the Presidents activity».

The principal objectives of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan are as follows:

1. To provide for the exercise of the Presidents powers in relation to:

  • the foreign policy;the social-and-economic and other directions of the domestic policy;
  • the states defensibility and security;
  • the legal policy, lawfulness, law and order;the personnel policy;
  • the Parliament of the RK;
  • the Government of the RK and central executive bodies;
  • the Constitutional Council of the RK;
  • courts and judges;
  • the Central Election Commission of the RK;
  • local representative and executive bodies, heads of regional governments, cities of republican significance and the regional policy;
  • state bodies that are directly subordinated and accountable to the President.

2. To support the activity of the Secretary of State of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan and consultative-advisory bodies under the President.

3. To perform other tasks established by the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan and (or) defined by the President [1].

EO in the system of power

The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the head of state and its highest official who determines the main directions of the national domestic and foreign policy. The President is authorized to institute, abolish and reorganize state bodies directly subordinate and accountable to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as to appoint and dismiss their leaders.

There are currently 19 structures in Kazakhstan which are directly subordinate and accountable to President Tokayev:

1. Executive Office of the President.

2. Prosecutor Generals Office.

3. National Security Committee (NSC).

4. Agency for Civil Service Affairs.

5. Anti-Corruption Agency.

6. Agency for Protection and Development of Competition.

7. Agency for Regulation and Development of Financial Market.

8. Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms.

9. Financial Monitoring Agency.

10. Anti-Terrorist Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

11. National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

12. High Judicial Council.

13. Constitutional Court.

14. Border Service of the NSC.

15. State Security Service.

16. Supreme Audit Chamber.

17. Human Rights Commissioner.

18. Central Election Commission.

19. Department of Presidential Affairs.

The Executive Office rightly ranks first on this list. In order to provide for the exercise of the Presidents powers in relation to state bodies directly subordinate and accountable to him, the EO performs the following functions:

1. Assesses the performance of these state bodies and provides for the implementation of their activities in accordance with established procedure.

2. Submits proposals to the President on performance improvements and on the establishment, abolition and reorganization of these state bodies.

3. Coordinates and controls the activities of these state bodies.

As we see, the Executive Office plays a vital role in Kazakhstans political and public life. It is therefore unsurprising that the EO in its current form goes beyond providing routine support to the head of state (which is the task of similar institutions in, say, the United States or France) and plays the role of the main «political headquarters».

Since it is hard to overestimate the role and significance of the Executive Office in Kazakhstans current power structure, its activities merit further consideration.

Goals and objectives

The Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan is especially active and influential in the sphere of executive power, where the EO had de facto led the activities of the Government until recently. Moreover, the EO is authorized to influence the legislative process, as it makes recommendations to the President regarding the signing or rejection of bills. The EO has enormous potential to influence the President in appointing persons to public positions, including through the verification of information on their income, property obligations and the absence of restrictions. In addition, a special presidential commission on personnel appointments considers candidates for judicial positions, which makes the judiciary also indirectly dependent on the President. The presidential commission on state decorations makes it possible to manage the career growth and promotion of not only civil servants, but also political and public figures.

The above is only a small part of the wide range of functions and powers that allow the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan to influence many aspects of society and the state. As we see, the EO performs a large number of diverse tasks related to the exercise of the powers of the head of state. Its functions cover various governmental activities, including legislative, executive and judicial ones. Although the institution of the presidency is singular in its status as the supreme arbiter and cannot be considered part of any of the three branches of government, the President constantly interacts with each of these branches and has significant potential to influence them. To exercise his powers in the areas of legislative, executive and judicial authority, defense and security, foreign policy and international relations, as well as engagement with the regions of the country, the President needs the support of a powerful special apparatus represented by the EO.

Today, the Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan assists the head of state in the exercise of his powers on a continuous basis. It performs a number of critical functions, including control, organization, analytics and verification of the implementation of decisions made. It goes without saying that the EO exerts a substantial and direct influence on governmental decision-making on a wide variety of issues related to political and public activities. There is a number of expert approaches for assessing the EOs functioning and influence as a special state body. For instance, some experts believe that the EO is an independent political force which, although it acts under the auspices of the President, has its own goals and powers. Others think that the EOs role is purely supportive, akin to the functions assigned to the Government. Still others liken it to the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

An answer to these debates has been given by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev himself: «the Executive Office of the President, becoming a «political headquarters», will focus its efforts on the strategic directions of socio-economic development of the state, issues of domestic and foreign policy, defense and security, legal and personnel policies».

In his state of the nation address, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also noted that the Government will now be fully responsible for implementing the economic policy. «It should have all the necessary tools for independently managing the economy, free from unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy, without the need for coordination with the Executive Office of the President» [2]. President Tokayev believes that the political system of the reinvigorated Kazakhstan should be based on the clear-cut formula «a strong President an influential Parliament an accountable Government».

Structure

Today, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is the uncontested political leader and the center of new consolidation in the Kazakhstani society. As noted earlier in the CISS report, Tokayevs ascension to power and the events of the «tragic January» have led to a dramatic overhaul of Kazakhstans political elite by nearly 80% [3]. Meritocracy has become an important principle in appointing leaders. The rotation of officials has directly affected the EO, which currently serves as the main talent pool for Kazakhstans President and a valuable reserve for promotions.

On September 1, 2023, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed an important decree on the reorganization of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan [4].

The staff of the reorganized Executive Office includes:

  • Head of the Executive Office of the President;
  • Secretary of the Security Council;
  • Head of the Chancellery of the President;assistants to the President;
  • advisors to the President;
  • departments of the Executive Office of the President.

In addition, positions were established for assistants to the President in the following areas:

  • domestic policy and communications;
  • economic affairs;
  • external affairs;
  • legal issues;
  • science and innovation.

The same decree abolished the posts of EO deputy heads and eliminated four departments.

Today, the senior leadership of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan includes:

  • Erlan Karin, State Counsellor;
  • Aibek Dadebayev, Head of the Executive Office of the President;
  • Gizat Nurdauletov, Secretary of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Bakytzhan Sariyev, Head of the Chancellery of the President;
  • Ruslan Zheldibay, Assistant to the President on domestic policy and communications;
  • Erzhan Kazykhan, Assistant to the President for external affairs;
  • Yerzhan Zhiyenbayev, Assistant to the President on legal issues;
  • Bauyrzhan Omarov, Advisor to the President;
  • Malik Otarbayev, Advisor to the President;
  • Bolat Akchulakov, Advisor to the President;
  • Yernar Baspayev, Advisor to the President;
  • Berik Uali, Advisor to the President Press Secretary of the President;
  • Zulfiya Suleimenova, Advisor to the President  Special Representative of the President on International Environmental Cooperation;Kunsulu Zakarya, Advisor to the President on science and innovation;
  • Yerulan Zhamaubayev, Advisor to the President;Murat K. Baimukashev, Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Nurzhan Kadzhiakbarov, Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the RK.

The Executive Office has the following structural subdivisions:

  • Chancellery of the President of the RK;
  • Informatization and Security of Information Resources Department;
  • Social and Economic Policy Department;
  • Document Processing Department;
  • Domestic Policy Department;
  • Communications Department;
  • Law Enforcement System Department;
  • State-Law Department;
  • Secretariat of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan;
  • Department of State Control;
  • Civil Service and Personnel Policy Department;
  • Press Office of the President of the RK;
  • Foreign Policy and International Relations Department;
  • Protocol Service of the President of the RK;
  • Representation of the President to the Parliament of the RK;
  • Department for Consideration of Applications;
  • Situational Center of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Military Security and Defense Department of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Relevant Security Issues Department of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Analytics Department of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Secretariat of the Secretary of State of the RK.

Expert assessments

Kassym-Jomart Tokayevs modernization policy aims to fundamentally reshape Kazakhstans economic, political and social structure, enabling the country not only to complete its post-Soviet transition, but also to build a sustainable future. Analysts highlight three essential points in all of President Tokayevs staffing decisions.

The first point is to systematically move away from the older Soviet system and build a new, modern system of public administration; the second point is to gradually delegate certain powers of the supreme presidential authority to the lower echelons and other branches of government; and the third point is to continuously select and place new personnel capable of not only strictly following the Presidents orders but also taking initiative, assuming responsibility and possessing the required skills and competencies. Reports by the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies have repeatedly noted problems with the talent pool in Kazakhstan, which is currently experiencing a major shortage of competent organizers and implementers.

Evidently, these challenging circumstances have put a double burden on the EO: it has to be a source of proven professionals personally loyal to President Tokayev while also serving as the nearest testing ground for modernization experiments. Kazakh political scientist Daniyar Ashimbayev notes that seven EO heads, four secretaries of state, three heads of the Department of Presidential Affairs, three prime ministers, two first deputy prime ministers and five first deputy EO heads have been replaced so far during Tokayevs presidency.

As part of the recent optimization of the structure of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan, the positions of deputy EO heads were abolished and four departments were eliminated. Experts believe that this was caused by President Tokayevs desire to simplify and streamline EO structure in order to reduce red tape and make the execution of his orders more efficient. It is no secret that the previous reorganizations had only increased the number of EO subdivisions as the scope of their powers, including the so-called hidden powers, kept growing.

Another important trend in President Tokayevs personnel policy is the steady strengthening of executive power structures on the basis of delegating the most successful EO officials to the Government. To wit, as part of Kassym-Jomart Tokayevs EO reorganization in September 2023, the positions of deputy heads of the Executive Office, among whom was Aida Balayeva, were abolished. At the same time, she was appointed Minister of Culture and Information for her efficient performance as the head of the media block. To give another example, a Presidential Decree of February 6, 2024 appointed Olzhas Bektenov, then Head of the EO, as the new Prime Minister. It should be noted that prior to his appointment as Head of the Executive Office of the President on April 3, 2023, Bektenov served as chairman of the Anti-Corruption Agency for a year. Experts link these appointments to President Tokayevs trust in the EO staff and his desire to rejuvenate the Cabinet so as to meet public expectations and fit into the concept of the «new Kazakhstan» [5].

New Head of the Executive Office

The Head of the Executive Office of the President, who holds responsibility for the passage of bills, decrees and orders of the head of state, coordinates the work of assistants and advisers to the head of state, coordinates and guides the work of the structural subdivisions of the EO, and makes sure it cooperates with other state bodies, has always been a major figure in the political process. The role of the EO leader in the current political system is also defined by the fact that this person presents the President with proposals on personal appointments to leadership positions. Thus, the EO leader handles the key functions not only in the EO but also in the entire system of supreme power. As noted above, the EO carries out crucial managerial and control functions, guiding the work of all bodies and institutions directly and indirectly subordinate to the President.

Aibek Dadebayev has been the Head of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan since February 6, 2024. He was born in Almaty on April 1, 1980. In 2001, he graduated from the Kazakh Ablai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages with a degree in document management and international relations; in 2003, he got a masters degree in regional studies from the same university.

The new EO leader has a number of important system-related qualities: dedication, commitment, responsibility, ability to prioritize, diligence, competence and efficiency. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noticed and appreciated these qualities back when he was Chairman of the Senate (the upper house of the Parliament of Kazakhstan), with the young Aibek Dadebayev as his assistant. In 2011, Mr. Dadebayev joined his boss at the permanent mission of Kazakhstan at the UN office in Geneva (the current head of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, Murat Nurtleu, also worked there). In 2013, Mr. Dadebayev came back to Astana with Mr. Tokayev, first as Deputy Head and later as Head of the Secretariat of the Chairman of the Senate.

In 2019, when Kassym-Jomart Tokayev became the President of Kazakhstan, Aibek Dadebayev was appointed Deputy Head of the Chancellery of the President; in May 2021, he became Deputy Head of the Department of Presidential Affairs (DPA). In January 2022, Mr. Dadebayev was promoted to Head of the DPA and carried out a digital transformation at the department to optimize management processes and strengthen executive discipline. Under Aibek Dadebayev, efforts were made to strengthen the capacities of the TV and Radio Complex of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (a targeted media resource for information support of the head of state) subordinate to the DPA by incorporating the Kazinform news agency and the Jibek Joly TV channel (the first national satellite television channel broadcasting around the clock).

In early May this year, Aibek Dadebayev gave his first major interview to the Jibek Joly TV channel as the Head of the Executive Office of the President. Most Kazakh and Russian experts single out three hot-button issues covered in this interview: assistance to the population of flood-affected regions of Kazakhstan and prevention of natural disasters in the future; the return of illegally withdrawn assets from abroad; and the development of the official language [6]. We believe that the most interesting part of this interview is its final section, which reveals the principles of President Tokayevs personnel policy. Aibek Dadebayev spoke about the presidential reserve practice and the process of creating regional personnel reserves that began in 2024. «The Presidential youth reserve has existed for five years. In that time, 289 candidates have been employed in various positions, with three persons transferred to the A Corps and 36 persons assigned to political posts. Plus, young candidates from the reserve have been elected to the Majilis [the lower house of the Parliament]», he noted.

He also said that «the Executive Office is actively working to increase the engagement of well-educated and highly-qualified citizens in public affairs, as well as to improve the requirements for civil servants in accordance with the concept of «Adal Azamat» [forming a new quality of the Kazakh nation] announced by the President». For instance, 120 of the best university graduates were employed as civil servants last year. «Regarding the Executive Office of the President, I can say that based on instructions from the President, we have begun automating the process of selecting talented personnel. That is, we are implementing the principle of meritocracy using modern methods», Aibek Dadebayev said. In conclusion, the EO leader stressed that civil service and politics entail enormous responsibility and inspire great trust. Since there is no fixed term of office or any guarantees in the political service, the EO recruits highly-qualified and dedicated people based on stringent requirements [7].

Challenges for the future

A detailed consideration of the functions and role of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan must take into account the existing and future problems in the system of state power relations.

First of all, let us note the normative problems related to the unclear constitutional and legal status of the Executive Office. Article 44 paragraph 19 of the revised Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan only briefly indicates that the head of state «forms the Executive Office of the President of the Republic». In the original resolution on the Executive Office introduced by Decree of the President of the RK No. 2565 of October 20, 1995 and in the updated regulation of March 11, 2008 introduced by Decree No. 552, it is defined as a state body. A conflict of law arises due to an obvious constitutional contradiction, since state bodies are originally defined as bodies that belong to one of the three branches of government.

However, it is fundamentally incorrect to consider the EO part of the three branches of government or the state apparatus. While the uncertainty and inconsistency of its legal status was still considered acceptable under the super-presidential form of government, the fact that the EO continues to remain in a legal gray zone gives rise to numerous legal problems in its interactions with other branches of government. These accumulated contradictions will only exacerbate, as President Tokayev has firmly announced a «final transition from a super-presidential form of government to a presidential republic with a strong Parliament» [8]. Experts believe that this problem can be solved by adopting a special law («On the Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan») or adding clarifications to Article 32 «Executive Office of the President» in the constitutional law «On the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan».

In developing legal norms, due consideration must be given to the fact that the term «Executive Office» can be understood either narrowly or broadly. In a narrow sense, the Executive Office is an official body of the state responsible for the work of the current President; in a broad sense, it is a complex of state bodies operating continuously to provide for the fulfillment of constitutional duties by every President of the Republic regardless of the existing challenges. In other words, interpretations can differ fundamentally based on the understanding of the very nature of power either as a purely personalized regime tied to the fate of a given politician or an institutional political regime which is more stable and long-term in essence. One should clearly distinguish between the concepts of «institution of the presidency» and «institution of the President», since it is the presidency that is primary and is more expansive. The institution of the presidency is predicated on creating a system of norms aimed at regulating the presidential election process, the execution of presidential powers and functions, and all other aspects of the exercise of presidential powers, including any emergency situations.

In 2022, Kazakhstan experienced the events of the «tragic January», which represented an attempt to launch a coup détat and block the activities of the current President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. In the current international situation, external influence and even direct attempts on the lives of state leaders have become noticeably more frequent. Kazakh political scientist Eduard Poletayev rightly asserts that any death of a head of state is a stressful situation for the countrys political system. «Enemies can always take advantage of the situation to advance their goals, and to achieve that, damage is usually inflicted on the chain of command», he explains [9]. It appears that the Executive Office of the President and the Senate as a permanent legislative body should have the functions of a «guardian power» to provide for uninterrupted administration and achieve stability in the Republic of Kazakhstan in any crisis. There is a need to work out and prepare in advance a mechanism to provide for the succession and continuity of presidential power, set out a multi-stage order of succession to the presidency, and resolve the issue of reliable reservation of the functionality of supreme power.

In his recent address, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev aptly called the Executive Office of the President a «political headquarters» that focuses its efforts on the strategic directions of socio-economic development of Kazakhstan. One could continue this analogy and compare the EO to the General Staff, which, even in peacetime, continuously develops plans for future battles and military operations, painstakingly calculates potential threats, and prepares in advance numerous scenarios to counter attacks both from outside and inside the country.

Over the past challenging years, Russia and Kazakhstan have grown closer economically, politically and logistically; the two countries have a similar structure of a resource-based economy and extensive transit infrastructure, which objectively determines the general nature of their external and internal challenges. Existing and potential threats can be curbed not only through the joint efforts of the intelligence services and law enforcement agencies of the two countries, but also by combining the analytical and expert capabilities of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The new Head of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan is known to attach great importance to scientific expertise and systematic forecasting of not only natural and man-made risks and threats but also socio-political processes, including those directly affecting national security. There is no doubt that active engagement between the EO and the expert community will allow us to look into the future with more confidence.

1. Executive Office of the President  About the Executive Office. Akorda  the official website of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. https://www.akorda.kz/en/executive_office/about_executive_office

2. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayevs State of the Nation Address «Economic course of a Just Kazakhstan». Akorda  the official website of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 01.09.2023. https://www.akorda.kz/en/president-kassym-jomart-tokayevs-state-of-the-nation-address-economic-course-of-a-just-kazakhstan-283243

3. Tokayevs reforms: year of big changes in Kazakhstan. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies, 06.12.2023. https://caspian.institute/product/kazakhstan-sector/tokayev-s-reforms-year-of-big-changes-in-kazakhstan-38648.shtml

4. Tokayev reorganizes structure of Presidents Executive Office. Forbes.kz, 01.09.2023. https://forbes.kz/articles/tokaev_reorganizoval_strukturu_administratsii_prezidenta

5. Tokayev on Bektenov: «Hard-working and very well-educated». Tengrinews.kz, 06.02.2024. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/tokaev-o-bektenove-trudolyubiv-i-ochen-obrazovan-525448/

6. Tokayevs Executive Office says forces in Kazakhstan are trying to inflame tensions on language question. SS, 10.05.2024. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/20764099

7. «Law is equally harsh on everyone». Interview of EO leader Aibek Dadebayev. Tengrinews.kz, 10.05.2024. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/zakon-odinakovo-surov-vseh-intervyu-rukovoditelya-ap-aybeka-534758/

8. Tokayev proposes transition from super-presidential form of government to presidential one.. SS, 16.03.2022. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/14083831

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Reports

Political headquarters of President Tokayev

photo: orda.kz
24 2024

The Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (hereinafter the «EO»), which serves as the backbone of the political institution of the presidency, is a core element of centralized public power in Kazakhstan. Officially, the activities of the EO are aimed at providing routine support to the head of state; therefore, it operates under his direct leadership and patronage. In effect, the EO has nearly unlimited authority, including that vested in it by its personnel policy, as well as through its direct influence on other state bodies.

What many post-Soviet countries, including Russia and Kazakhstan, have in common is that their presidency has priority in many respects over the separation of powers, and acts as a supreme arbiter. The Executive Office of the President is essentially a single system of control, a unique set of functions, goals and objectives implemented by all bodies of state power and administration with the purpose of achieving the strategic goals of governance. At the same time, experts view the EO as the least researched state body of superpower that needs to be studied in great detail.

General information

The Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK) is a state body which was established in accordance with Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 2565 dated October 20, 1995. Since then, the structure of the EO has undergone numerous reforms, and was last amended by President Tokayevs Decree of September 1, 2023. It should be noted that the EO staff is selected personally by the President and is directly subordinate and accountable to him. Experts estimate that the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan employs about 450 people, with an annual budget of approximately 250 million dollars. EO employees largely guide the national foreign and domestic policy, control the execution of instructions from the head of state, and keep the President informed on the state of affairs in the country and abroad. According to the official website of the President of Kazakhstan, «the Executive Offices mission is a qualitative and timely informational-analytical, legal, protocol-organizational, documentation and other provision of the Presidents activity».

The principal objectives of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan are as follows:

1. To provide for the exercise of the Presidents powers in relation to:

  • the foreign policy;the social-and-economic and other directions of the domestic policy;
  • the states defensibility and security;
  • the legal policy, lawfulness, law and order;the personnel policy;
  • the Parliament of the RK;
  • the Government of the RK and central executive bodies;
  • the Constitutional Council of the RK;
  • courts and judges;
  • the Central Election Commission of the RK;
  • local representative and executive bodies, heads of regional governments, cities of republican significance and the regional policy;
  • state bodies that are directly subordinated and accountable to the President.

2. To support the activity of the Secretary of State of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan and consultative-advisory bodies under the President.

3. To perform other tasks established by the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan and (or) defined by the President [1].

EO in the system of power

The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the head of state and its highest official who determines the main directions of the national domestic and foreign policy. The President is authorized to institute, abolish and reorganize state bodies directly subordinate and accountable to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as to appoint and dismiss their leaders.

There are currently 19 structures in Kazakhstan which are directly subordinate and accountable to President Tokayev:

1. Executive Office of the President.

2. Prosecutor Generals Office.

3. National Security Committee (NSC).

4. Agency for Civil Service Affairs.

5. Anti-Corruption Agency.

6. Agency for Protection and Development of Competition.

7. Agency for Regulation and Development of Financial Market.

8. Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms.

9. Financial Monitoring Agency.

10. Anti-Terrorist Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

11. National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

12. High Judicial Council.

13. Constitutional Court.

14. Border Service of the NSC.

15. State Security Service.

16. Supreme Audit Chamber.

17. Human Rights Commissioner.

18. Central Election Commission.

19. Department of Presidential Affairs.

The Executive Office rightly ranks first on this list. In order to provide for the exercise of the Presidents powers in relation to state bodies directly subordinate and accountable to him, the EO performs the following functions:

1. Assesses the performance of these state bodies and provides for the implementation of their activities in accordance with established procedure.

2. Submits proposals to the President on performance improvements and on the establishment, abolition and reorganization of these state bodies.

3. Coordinates and controls the activities of these state bodies.

As we see, the Executive Office plays a vital role in Kazakhstans political and public life. It is therefore unsurprising that the EO in its current form goes beyond providing routine support to the head of state (which is the task of similar institutions in, say, the United States or France) and plays the role of the main «political headquarters».

Since it is hard to overestimate the role and significance of the Executive Office in Kazakhstans current power structure, its activities merit further consideration.

Goals and objectives

The Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan is especially active and influential in the sphere of executive power, where the EO had de facto led the activities of the Government until recently. Moreover, the EO is authorized to influence the legislative process, as it makes recommendations to the President regarding the signing or rejection of bills. The EO has enormous potential to influence the President in appointing persons to public positions, including through the verification of information on their income, property obligations and the absence of restrictions. In addition, a special presidential commission on personnel appointments considers candidates for judicial positions, which makes the judiciary also indirectly dependent on the President. The presidential commission on state decorations makes it possible to manage the career growth and promotion of not only civil servants, but also political and public figures.

The above is only a small part of the wide range of functions and powers that allow the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan to influence many aspects of society and the state. As we see, the EO performs a large number of diverse tasks related to the exercise of the powers of the head of state. Its functions cover various governmental activities, including legislative, executive and judicial ones. Although the institution of the presidency is singular in its status as the supreme arbiter and cannot be considered part of any of the three branches of government, the President constantly interacts with each of these branches and has significant potential to influence them. To exercise his powers in the areas of legislative, executive and judicial authority, defense and security, foreign policy and international relations, as well as engagement with the regions of the country, the President needs the support of a powerful special apparatus represented by the EO.

Today, the Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan assists the head of state in the exercise of his powers on a continuous basis. It performs a number of critical functions, including control, organization, analytics and verification of the implementation of decisions made. It goes without saying that the EO exerts a substantial and direct influence on governmental decision-making on a wide variety of issues related to political and public activities. There is a number of expert approaches for assessing the EOs functioning and influence as a special state body. For instance, some experts believe that the EO is an independent political force which, although it acts under the auspices of the President, has its own goals and powers. Others think that the EOs role is purely supportive, akin to the functions assigned to the Government. Still others liken it to the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

An answer to these debates has been given by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev himself: «the Executive Office of the President, becoming a «political headquarters», will focus its efforts on the strategic directions of socio-economic development of the state, issues of domestic and foreign policy, defense and security, legal and personnel policies».

In his state of the nation address, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also noted that the Government will now be fully responsible for implementing the economic policy. «It should have all the necessary tools for independently managing the economy, free from unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy, without the need for coordination with the Executive Office of the President» [2]. President Tokayev believes that the political system of the reinvigorated Kazakhstan should be based on the clear-cut formula «a strong President an influential Parliament an accountable Government».

Structure

Today, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is the uncontested political leader and the center of new consolidation in the Kazakhstani society. As noted earlier in the CISS report, Tokayevs ascension to power and the events of the «tragic January» have led to a dramatic overhaul of Kazakhstans political elite by nearly 80% [3]. Meritocracy has become an important principle in appointing leaders. The rotation of officials has directly affected the EO, which currently serves as the main talent pool for Kazakhstans President and a valuable reserve for promotions.

On September 1, 2023, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed an important decree on the reorganization of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan [4].

The staff of the reorganized Executive Office includes:

  • Head of the Executive Office of the President;
  • Secretary of the Security Council;
  • Head of the Chancellery of the President;assistants to the President;
  • advisors to the President;
  • departments of the Executive Office of the President.

In addition, positions were established for assistants to the President in the following areas:

  • domestic policy and communications;
  • economic affairs;
  • external affairs;
  • legal issues;
  • science and innovation.

The same decree abolished the posts of EO deputy heads and eliminated four departments.

Today, the senior leadership of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan includes:

  • Erlan Karin, State Counsellor;
  • Aibek Dadebayev, Head of the Executive Office of the President;
  • Gizat Nurdauletov, Secretary of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Bakytzhan Sariyev, Head of the Chancellery of the President;
  • Ruslan Zheldibay, Assistant to the President on domestic policy and communications;
  • Erzhan Kazykhan, Assistant to the President for external affairs;
  • Yerzhan Zhiyenbayev, Assistant to the President on legal issues;
  • Bauyrzhan Omarov, Advisor to the President;
  • Malik Otarbayev, Advisor to the President;
  • Bolat Akchulakov, Advisor to the President;
  • Yernar Baspayev, Advisor to the President;
  • Berik Uali, Advisor to the President Press Secretary of the President;
  • Zulfiya Suleimenova, Advisor to the President  Special Representative of the President on International Environmental Cooperation;Kunsulu Zakarya, Advisor to the President on science and innovation;
  • Yerulan Zhamaubayev, Advisor to the President;Murat K. Baimukashev, Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Nurzhan Kadzhiakbarov, Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the RK.

The Executive Office has the following structural subdivisions:

  • Chancellery of the President of the RK;
  • Informatization and Security of Information Resources Department;
  • Social and Economic Policy Department;
  • Document Processing Department;
  • Domestic Policy Department;
  • Communications Department;
  • Law Enforcement System Department;
  • State-Law Department;
  • Secretariat of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan;
  • Department of State Control;
  • Civil Service and Personnel Policy Department;
  • Press Office of the President of the RK;
  • Foreign Policy and International Relations Department;
  • Protocol Service of the President of the RK;
  • Representation of the President to the Parliament of the RK;
  • Department for Consideration of Applications;
  • Situational Center of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Military Security and Defense Department of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Relevant Security Issues Department of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Analytics Department of the Security Council of the RK;
  • Secretariat of the Secretary of State of the RK.

Expert assessments

Kassym-Jomart Tokayevs modernization policy aims to fundamentally reshape Kazakhstans economic, political and social structure, enabling the country not only to complete its post-Soviet transition, but also to build a sustainable future. Analysts highlight three essential points in all of President Tokayevs staffing decisions.

The first point is to systematically move away from the older Soviet system and build a new, modern system of public administration; the second point is to gradually delegate certain powers of the supreme presidential authority to the lower echelons and other branches of government; and the third point is to continuously select and place new personnel capable of not only strictly following the Presidents orders but also taking initiative, assuming responsibility and possessing the required skills and competencies. Reports by the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies have repeatedly noted problems with the talent pool in Kazakhstan, which is currently experiencing a major shortage of competent organizers and implementers.

Evidently, these challenging circumstances have put a double burden on the EO: it has to be a source of proven professionals personally loyal to President Tokayev while also serving as the nearest testing ground for modernization experiments. Kazakh political scientist Daniyar Ashimbayev notes that seven EO heads, four secretaries of state, three heads of the Department of Presidential Affairs, three prime ministers, two first deputy prime ministers and five first deputy EO heads have been replaced so far during Tokayevs presidency.

As part of the recent optimization of the structure of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan, the positions of deputy EO heads were abolished and four departments were eliminated. Experts believe that this was caused by President Tokayevs desire to simplify and streamline EO structure in order to reduce red tape and make the execution of his orders more efficient. It is no secret that the previous reorganizations had only increased the number of EO subdivisions as the scope of their powers, including the so-called hidden powers, kept growing.

Another important trend in President Tokayevs personnel policy is the steady strengthening of executive power structures on the basis of delegating the most successful EO officials to the Government. To wit, as part of Kassym-Jomart Tokayevs EO reorganization in September 2023, the positions of deputy heads of the Executive Office, among whom was Aida Balayeva, were abolished. At the same time, she was appointed Minister of Culture and Information for her efficient performance as the head of the media block. To give another example, a Presidential Decree of February 6, 2024 appointed Olzhas Bektenov, then Head of the EO, as the new Prime Minister. It should be noted that prior to his appointment as Head of the Executive Office of the President on April 3, 2023, Bektenov served as chairman of the Anti-Corruption Agency for a year. Experts link these appointments to President Tokayevs trust in the EO staff and his desire to rejuvenate the Cabinet so as to meet public expectations and fit into the concept of the «new Kazakhstan» [5].

New Head of the Executive Office

The Head of the Executive Office of the President, who holds responsibility for the passage of bills, decrees and orders of the head of state, coordinates the work of assistants and advisers to the head of state, coordinates and guides the work of the structural subdivisions of the EO, and makes sure it cooperates with other state bodies, has always been a major figure in the political process. The role of the EO leader in the current political system is also defined by the fact that this person presents the President with proposals on personal appointments to leadership positions. Thus, the EO leader handles the key functions not only in the EO but also in the entire system of supreme power. As noted above, the EO carries out crucial managerial and control functions, guiding the work of all bodies and institutions directly and indirectly subordinate to the President.

Aibek Dadebayev has been the Head of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan since February 6, 2024. He was born in Almaty on April 1, 1980. In 2001, he graduated from the Kazakh Ablai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages with a degree in document management and international relations; in 2003, he got a masters degree in regional studies from the same university.

The new EO leader has a number of important system-related qualities: dedication, commitment, responsibility, ability to prioritize, diligence, competence and efficiency. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noticed and appreciated these qualities back when he was Chairman of the Senate (the upper house of the Parliament of Kazakhstan), with the young Aibek Dadebayev as his assistant. In 2011, Mr. Dadebayev joined his boss at the permanent mission of Kazakhstan at the UN office in Geneva (the current head of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, Murat Nurtleu, also worked there). In 2013, Mr. Dadebayev came back to Astana with Mr. Tokayev, first as Deputy Head and later as Head of the Secretariat of the Chairman of the Senate.

In 2019, when Kassym-Jomart Tokayev became the President of Kazakhstan, Aibek Dadebayev was appointed Deputy Head of the Chancellery of the President; in May 2021, he became Deputy Head of the Department of Presidential Affairs (DPA). In January 2022, Mr. Dadebayev was promoted to Head of the DPA and carried out a digital transformation at the department to optimize management processes and strengthen executive discipline. Under Aibek Dadebayev, efforts were made to strengthen the capacities of the TV and Radio Complex of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (a targeted media resource for information support of the head of state) subordinate to the DPA by incorporating the Kazinform news agency and the Jibek Joly TV channel (the first national satellite television channel broadcasting around the clock).

In early May this year, Aibek Dadebayev gave his first major interview to the Jibek Joly TV channel as the Head of the Executive Office of the President. Most Kazakh and Russian experts single out three hot-button issues covered in this interview: assistance to the population of flood-affected regions of Kazakhstan and prevention of natural disasters in the future; the return of illegally withdrawn assets from abroad; and the development of the official language [6]. We believe that the most interesting part of this interview is its final section, which reveals the principles of President Tokayevs personnel policy. Aibek Dadebayev spoke about the presidential reserve practice and the process of creating regional personnel reserves that began in 2024. «The Presidential youth reserve has existed for five years. In that time, 289 candidates have been employed in various positions, with three persons transferred to the A Corps and 36 persons assigned to political posts. Plus, young candidates from the reserve have been elected to the Majilis [the lower house of the Parliament]», he noted.

He also said that «the Executive Office is actively working to increase the engagement of well-educated and highly-qualified citizens in public affairs, as well as to improve the requirements for civil servants in accordance with the concept of «Adal Azamat» [forming a new quality of the Kazakh nation] announced by the President». For instance, 120 of the best university graduates were employed as civil servants last year. «Regarding the Executive Office of the President, I can say that based on instructions from the President, we have begun automating the process of selecting talented personnel. That is, we are implementing the principle of meritocracy using modern methods», Aibek Dadebayev said. In conclusion, the EO leader stressed that civil service and politics entail enormous responsibility and inspire great trust. Since there is no fixed term of office or any guarantees in the political service, the EO recruits highly-qualified and dedicated people based on stringent requirements [7].

Challenges for the future

A detailed consideration of the functions and role of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan must take into account the existing and future problems in the system of state power relations.

First of all, let us note the normative problems related to the unclear constitutional and legal status of the Executive Office. Article 44 paragraph 19 of the revised Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan only briefly indicates that the head of state «forms the Executive Office of the President of the Republic». In the original resolution on the Executive Office introduced by Decree of the President of the RK No. 2565 of October 20, 1995 and in the updated regulation of March 11, 2008 introduced by Decree No. 552, it is defined as a state body. A conflict of law arises due to an obvious constitutional contradiction, since state bodies are originally defined as bodies that belong to one of the three branches of government.

However, it is fundamentally incorrect to consider the EO part of the three branches of government or the state apparatus. While the uncertainty and inconsistency of its legal status was still considered acceptable under the super-presidential form of government, the fact that the EO continues to remain in a legal gray zone gives rise to numerous legal problems in its interactions with other branches of government. These accumulated contradictions will only exacerbate, as President Tokayev has firmly announced a «final transition from a super-presidential form of government to a presidential republic with a strong Parliament» [8]. Experts believe that this problem can be solved by adopting a special law («On the Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan») or adding clarifications to Article 32 «Executive Office of the President» in the constitutional law «On the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan».

In developing legal norms, due consideration must be given to the fact that the term «Executive Office» can be understood either narrowly or broadly. In a narrow sense, the Executive Office is an official body of the state responsible for the work of the current President; in a broad sense, it is a complex of state bodies operating continuously to provide for the fulfillment of constitutional duties by every President of the Republic regardless of the existing challenges. In other words, interpretations can differ fundamentally based on the understanding of the very nature of power either as a purely personalized regime tied to the fate of a given politician or an institutional political regime which is more stable and long-term in essence. One should clearly distinguish between the concepts of «institution of the presidency» and «institution of the President», since it is the presidency that is primary and is more expansive. The institution of the presidency is predicated on creating a system of norms aimed at regulating the presidential election process, the execution of presidential powers and functions, and all other aspects of the exercise of presidential powers, including any emergency situations.

In 2022, Kazakhstan experienced the events of the «tragic January», which represented an attempt to launch a coup détat and block the activities of the current President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. In the current international situation, external influence and even direct attempts on the lives of state leaders have become noticeably more frequent. Kazakh political scientist Eduard Poletayev rightly asserts that any death of a head of state is a stressful situation for the countrys political system. «Enemies can always take advantage of the situation to advance their goals, and to achieve that, damage is usually inflicted on the chain of command», he explains [9]. It appears that the Executive Office of the President and the Senate as a permanent legislative body should have the functions of a «guardian power» to provide for uninterrupted administration and achieve stability in the Republic of Kazakhstan in any crisis. There is a need to work out and prepare in advance a mechanism to provide for the succession and continuity of presidential power, set out a multi-stage order of succession to the presidency, and resolve the issue of reliable reservation of the functionality of supreme power.

In his recent address, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev aptly called the Executive Office of the President a «political headquarters» that focuses its efforts on the strategic directions of socio-economic development of Kazakhstan. One could continue this analogy and compare the EO to the General Staff, which, even in peacetime, continuously develops plans for future battles and military operations, painstakingly calculates potential threats, and prepares in advance numerous scenarios to counter attacks both from outside and inside the country.

Over the past challenging years, Russia and Kazakhstan have grown closer economically, politically and logistically; the two countries have a similar structure of a resource-based economy and extensive transit infrastructure, which objectively determines the general nature of their external and internal challenges. Existing and potential threats can be curbed not only through the joint efforts of the intelligence services and law enforcement agencies of the two countries, but also by combining the analytical and expert capabilities of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The new Head of the Executive Office of the President of Kazakhstan is known to attach great importance to scientific expertise and systematic forecasting of not only natural and man-made risks and threats but also socio-political processes, including those directly affecting national security. There is no doubt that active engagement between the EO and the expert community will allow us to look into the future with more confidence.

1. Executive Office of the President  About the Executive Office. Akorda  the official website of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. https://www.akorda.kz/en/executive_office/about_executive_office

2. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayevs State of the Nation Address «Economic course of a Just Kazakhstan». Akorda  the official website of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 01.09.2023. https://www.akorda.kz/en/president-kassym-jomart-tokayevs-state-of-the-nation-address-economic-course-of-a-just-kazakhstan-283243

3. Tokayevs reforms: year of big changes in Kazakhstan. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies, 06.12.2023. https://caspian.institute/product/kazakhstan-sector/tokayev-s-reforms-year-of-big-changes-in-kazakhstan-38648.shtml

4. Tokayev reorganizes structure of Presidents Executive Office. Forbes.kz, 01.09.2023. https://forbes.kz/articles/tokaev_reorganizoval_strukturu_administratsii_prezidenta

5. Tokayev on Bektenov: «Hard-working and very well-educated». Tengrinews.kz, 06.02.2024. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/tokaev-o-bektenove-trudolyubiv-i-ochen-obrazovan-525448/

6. Tokayevs Executive Office says forces in Kazakhstan are trying to inflame tensions on language question. SS, 10.05.2024. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/20764099

7. «Law is equally harsh on everyone». Interview of EO leader Aibek Dadebayev. Tengrinews.kz, 10.05.2024. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/zakon-odinakovo-surov-vseh-intervyu-rukovoditelya-ap-aybeka-534758/

8. Tokayev proposes transition from super-presidential form of government to presidential one.. SS, 16.03.2022. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/14083831