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In the aftermath of Elbasy. The key areas of reforming the «Nazarbayevs system»

photo: inbusiness.kz
21 February 2022

The President of Kazakhstan has noticeably changed the political landscape during just one month after the January events. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev managed to perform capital personnel purges, to deprive a part of Nazarbayevs elite of both power and their assets, and to set up the new government. Nowadays, Tokayev is facing a more difficult task to reform the Nazarbayevs system, or, according to his own words, «to build new Kazakhstan». [1]

The incumbent President came off victorious in the January combat, but so far one cant be sure that the turmoil will not happen again. Nobody can guarantee Tokayev peaceful final of his presidency and re-election in 2024, if he fails to eliminate the root causes of the turmoil. Previously, three sources of the «bloody January» were identified the extended duality of power, massive poverty and growing archaization. [2] Today we will discuss the priority tasks of reforming the Kazakhstan government system. What political problems is Kassym-Jomart Tokayev currently facing, and what are the possibilities of solving them? What will be the impact of Tokayevs «new deal» on Russias position in the region?

Nazarbayevs legacy

The slogan «Shal, ket!» («Go away, old man!») was one of the key demands of the «tragic January». It was the protesters appeal to eliminate Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President, from political life of Kazakhstan together with some of his family members and cronies. The problem of duumvirate, or, in simple words, the «two keys» system (held by the first President and the incumbent President) caused the deadlock of the political system. Some bureaucrats placed their stake on Nazarbayev, while some others on Tokayev. This resulted in non-transparent and cumbersome decision-making, and put the Elbasy (The «Leader of the Nation» in Kazakh language, Nazarbayevs title starting from his third Presidency) cronies out of the control and criticism zone. The dragged transition of power pushed the ambitious part of political elites to undertaking the coup dtat attempt in order to take all the control levers into their hands.

Today there is no duumvirate in Kazakhstan, and Nursultan Nazarbayev, a pensioner, is outside the political framework. The ex-President recorded a video appeal to rebellious Kazakhstan and stated: «President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has a full authority, he chairs the Security Council of Kazakhstan, and soon he will be elected Chairman of Nur Otan (Amanat) political party, hence, there is no political conflict or opposition in the countrys elite». This important action means that the line was drawn publicly under the long Nazarbayevs era. [3]

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was quick in removing the most toxic persons of the first Presidents family and team from their positions. For example, Nazarbayevs nephew Samat Abish was dismissed from the position of the First Deputy Head of the National Security Committee (NSC) of Kazakhstan. Timur Kulibayev, the husband of Nazarbayevs second daughter Dinara and the worthiest man in Kazakhstan (according to Forbes), voluntarily stepped down from the position of the Head of the Kazakhstan Chamber of Entrepreneurs. The husbands of two other Nazarbayevs daughters, Dariga and Aliya, also got their tickets. Kairat Sharipbayev, the boyfriend of the elder Nazarbayevs daughter was dismissed from his positions (Head of KazTransGaz and QazaqGaz). Dimash Dosanov, the husband of Nazarbayevs junior daughter Aliya was excluded from the top management of KazTransOil. Immediate dismissals also occurred among many prominent financial leaders, the alleged «money bags» of the Family (e.g., Kairat Kelimbetov).

It should be highlighted that there were no sweeping punitive measures against the relatives of the first President of Kazakhstan. For example, the above-mentioned Timur Kulibayev had to leave only his public position in the non-government organization, but kept all his money. Nazarbayevs cronies preferred to become low profile in order to take the heat out of the public discussion, to keep their assets and their prominence in political and business life. Certain Family representatives kept their presence in the media, but today there is no Nazarbayevs clan as a political actor anymore.

After that, the Kazakh society was offered to close this sensitive chapter. For example, President Tokayev made the following statement at the congress of the ruling party Nur Otan: «Let us pay tribute to the historic merits of the first President, bring to the forefront his unqualified accomplishments and perfections, and leave behind his possible blunders as lessons to be learned by future leaders of our country». Today there is a lot of talk about finalizing the transition of power from Nazarbayev to Tokayev, but de-facto the final round of this transition will take place at the end of 2024. It will be the time of the Presidential elections according to the RK Constitution, when Tokayev plans his re-election for the second term in office. [4]

Life without Elbasy

During this period of transition, the sweeping criticism of Elbasy a la Khrushchevs thaw period would be destructive for the very foundations of Kazakhstan nationhood. The strategic course, or, as it used to be called, «Nazarbayevs model» comprised social and political stability of Kazakhstan, inter-ethnic and inter-confessional accord, multi-vector foreign policy, start of Eurasian economic integration, successful foreign investment promotion and nuclear non-proliferation effort. All these achievements of Nazarbayevs era cannot be just thrown overboard the modernity without wrecking it.

According to Kazakh experts, «shalketism» will not become a new government policy. The strategic course of Nursultan Nazarbayev will be continued with account of the previous mistakes, which need to be avoided in future. In fact, being a specialist in Chinese studies, Tokayev used the verified model of Beijing comrades: «Mao was 80% right and 20% wrong». He was right in the main thing he built a new state from scratch, and wrong in details, because in the decline of his years he trusted his cronies way too far. These are sensible practices, which should work for Kazakhstan. Why «shoot from the hip», if we can eliminate «separate extremities» and «dizziness from the success».

We may put is straight: the problems of corruption, nepotism and economic monopolism, which are widely spoken about today, were not the priority target for the first Presidents policy. More likely, they were side effects during the process of building the new state and constituted the permanent challenge for Nursultan Nazarbayev. The obvious fact that Nazarbayev rejected the life-time presidency and transfer of power by right of succession makes a compelling case for that.

Why Tokayev was selected as the successor in office? First of all, he was a prominent diplomat capable of assuring international legitimization of the transit. Second, he was a system politician equally-distant from financial groups and the established clans. Tokayev was to become a new «ultimate arbitrator» unquestionably, subject to initial support by Nazarbayev, who held all the political threads in his hands.

As envisioned by Elbasy, the duumvirate policy was meant to assure smooth transition. But the irony was that the dragged duumvirate created the window of opportunities for the coup dtat attempt. Today it is evident that Tokayev strives to pull away from his previous status of Nazarbayevs successor. Neither he needs the weak president image, who was forced to invite CSTO troops to retain the unsteady power. Hence, the impetuous remarks of some Russian experts about «everlasting gratitude» or «obviously pro-Russian course of new Kazakhstan» are within the common logic, and not within political pragmatism.

Just a quote. «It does not mean we owe something to somebody. Kazakhstan is a sovereign state, our policy is independent. I am convinced that any statements about us allegedly owing something to Putin are just cheap talk that needs to be stopped. CSTO task force is not a personal army of Vladimir Putin or Russia. Peacekeeping forces are common for all the member countries of CSTO», Tokayev said in his interview to Qazaqstan TV channel. [5] This dry political logic also explains the impetus and relentlessness of Tokayevs actions today. For the same reason, the unprejudiced strengthening of Russias positions in Kazakhstan will be accompanied by seemingly low-key rhetoric. According to Kazakh traditions, there has to be only one khan, even if he is elected and sometimes looking over his shoulder at neighboring Russia and China, but still decisive and sovereign in his territories.

Audit of security, defense and law enforcement agencies

The first and the foremost ask of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is to prevent the January scenario repetition. This requires unbiassed investigation of the coup dtat attempt, punishment of the guilty and drastic personnel reshuffle in the security, defense and law enforcement agencies. Remember that in response to the protests 6,000 people were detained and over 1,800 criminal cases were initiated. According to the General Prosecutors Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan, at least 225 people were killed as a result of riots, 19 security/law enforcement officers among them. The number of injured or aggrieved persons is estimated at 4,578 people including 3,393 security/law enforcement officers. According to the preliminary assessment of Kazakhstan authorities, January turmoil resulted in USD 260 mln economic loss.

After the start of the turmoil, Karim Massimov, the Chairman of the National Security Committee, his First Deputy Samat Abish (Nazarbayevs nephew) and a number of top security officials were dismissed and later arrested on treason charges. Murat Bektanov, the Minister of Defense, along with some other top-ranking military officers were removed from office. Changes took place in police and other law enforcement agencies, except for the General Prosecutors Office and the Anti-Corruption Agency, which became the Presidents «retributive sword». [6]

All of it tells us that the incumbent President has very little credit to the security, defense and law enforcement agencies, especially to the National Security. The expectations are that the National Security Committee will be divided into several agencies: the sources are quite sure that the Border Guards Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service soon will be detached from the NSC. A significant effort will take place to establish Presidential control over the security agencies and their regular reporting. Further personnel purges are expected in these agencies, new entrants will be coming from other law enforcement agencies along with civilians (the «Tokayevs draft»).

Posttraumatic syndrome

After January events, police also found itself in a rather sensitive situation. Police has always been one of the important supports the regime was leaning on. In the most difficult times during the previous turmoil and recent lockdown the police were at the front-line assuring security in the streets. Nowadays, the police officers in Kazakhstan are under the triple crossfire. On one hand, law enforcement officials were humiliated by the mobs violence in January: their heads were cut-off, they were stripped naked, forced to their knees and impelled to recant. On the other hand, they are facing a true information terrorism from media and social media demanding scathing rebuke of the police for the «innocent victims of January». And thirdly, the personnel reshuffle in a series of regional police departments were perceived hyper-sensitively as an infringement of the established law-enforcement «corporation» and as an attempt of the government to turn the police into the «scape goats». [7]

The posttraumatic syndrome ordeal, according to some local sources, started to manifest itself in the growing cruelty of police officers during detention and interrogation. The police community discuss the possibility of setting up informal groups similar to «death squads» in Latin America for quick response to the criminals and protection of the police officers and their family members from violence. Marat Shibutov, an analyst from Kazakhstan, believes it to be an alarming sign of post-Soviet countries sliding from the «Second World» to the «Third World». The history of Latin America shows that whipping up a mutual violence spiral may only grow stronger. [8]

Secondary effects of this detrimental process will happen in the form of regular riots of urban lower classes and social outcasts in response to the total lawlessness on behalf of the police, as well as the readiness of enclosed law-enforcement «corporation» to dislodge weak civilian government. On top of that is «privatization of violence»: numerous security companies of Kazakhstan oligarchs, which de-facto are small private armies, as well as athletic-criminal organizations participating in forceful redistribution of businesses on a regular basis. Kazakhstan may find itself in a dangerous whirligig, when the government loses its priority function the monopoly for violence and justice. The neighboring Kyrgyzstan is an example, where the government is a conglomeration of criminal and regional clans. Hence, President Tokayev perceives the reform of law-enforcement and judicial systems with the utmost seriousness. [9]

Political reform itchiness

In the course of January events and immediately after them pleas were heard for drastic revision of the political system in Kazakhstan. For example, returning to 1993 Constitution, to diminish the presidential powers, as well as to establish unicameral parliament and to call extraordinary elections in accordance with the newly introduced rules. All these highly emotional pleas seem to be hasty and even dangerous for Kazakhstan nationhood. The Gulf War Syndrome may also occur, when liberal political reforms are running ahead of the economic development and the self-consciousness of the public resulting in the state collapsing into archaicism.

In reality, the effective RK Constitution has not exhausted its constructive potential. All the opportunities exist for accurate fine-tuning of the political system taking into account the accumulated problems. For example, to assure civil dialogue within the framework of the effective Constitution, which was recently cleaned from the latest novelties associated with excessive privileges of Elbasy. The Constitutional Law about the President also may be amended with account of potential risks of corruption and restrictions for the status of the relatives of the President. However, overall, the RK Constitution is a solid framework for Kazakhstan nationhood. [10]

It is especially important today to preserve the bicameral parliament, where the Lower House represents the entire population (directly via single-mandate districts or on a party list basis), and the Upper House represents the regions and certain social groups. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has been the leader of the Senate for a long time and knows well how important it is from the constitutional standpoint. Firstly, it is a standing body of the so-called «guarding power», which is important for stabilizing potential political conflicts; secondly, the vetting role of the Upper House allows it to filter out costly and populist bills; thirdly, the appointment of some senators according to the presidential quota may become a powerful mechanism for bringing «fresh blood» to the parliament. The rotation of Mazhilis members elected on a party list basis should be enhanced for the same reasons, leaving only the workable group of the legislators. Parliament should not be the place for Instagram stars (Meta Platforms is recognized as extremist organization and banned in the RF), picturing their happy and wealthy life for the poor electorate.

On the other hand, the parliament per se and regional legislatures the maslikhats should be to the maximum extent separated from the dominance of the government and akims (heads of local administrations), and should be vested with serious controlling functions. For example, mandatory parliaments approval of the appointed heads of the regulating agencies. A strong and independent maslikhat will allow for accumulating social energy in the respective territories and will supervise the expenditure of the upgraded budgets allocated to akims (heads of the regions) on an on-going basis. The direct appointment of akims in metropolitan and major cities should be preserved as a tool for assuring the integrity of the country and providing equal opportunities for the regions. The head of the region appointed by the President is an effective counterbalance against localism and nepotism, which has been successfully demonstrated in Russia.

The detailed audit of all the available levers of power should be the priority task for the incumbent President. He should focus on the priority issues and leave the tasks of new political system design for his second term. Figuratively speaking, one needs to repair the fractures in the foundation first, without spending efforts and time for renovating the states facades. We shall see it in near future. The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev intends to submit his proposals for political reforms as soon as the next month. «Now the decision is made that I will propose the political reforms in my State of the Nation in the middle of March», Tokayev declared. [11] Most likely, the State of the Nation will focus on mitigation of social risks, which triggered the protests in January: the growing income inequality, low level of education, high inflation rates and regional development disparities. All these are tactical matters imposed by the situation and are openly populist.

Crash-test for the government machine

During his period in office, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev faced two powerful stress-tests for Kazakhstan political system: severe lockdown and «bloody January». Both of them demonstrated that certain political institutions in the «Nazarbayevs model» had a merely decorative function and had absolutely no impact in the crisis times. They were, for example, Assembly of People of Kazakhstan (APK), trade unions, opposition parties, etc. Some other political institutions were operating in the «flashing power» mode, i.e., were performing from to time and hid at the most critical moment. Those were, for example, Nur Otan the party in power, Mazhilis and even the judiciary system.

Effectively, only the Presidents Administration, executive power bodies (akims system turned out to be more efficient than the government) and security/defense/law enforcement agencies (even though not all of them demonstrated their best features in the course of the crisis) showed uninterrupted functioning. The behavior of Kazakhstan political system at the time of emergency should be subject to the most thorough investigation on behalf of Ak Orda Presidential Palace - for future work on the lessons learned. Today, Tokayev is free from any informal obligations to Elbasy and can «finetune» Kazakhstan political establishment as he sees fit.

Recently, the Center for Strategic Initiatives published the social score, which showed absolute dominance of President Tokayevs figure. In December 2021, his political rating was high 68.5% across all the regions. It grew by 7.3% during the recent two years (from 60.8% in 2019) despite the pandemic and severe lockdown with all that implies. The Presidents confidence rating exceeded that of the regional akims; as for the government, only one out of three respondents trusted it. It is worth noting that the judicial system and media were at the end of the list. The new social score after January events has not been published yet, but the majority of sociologists in Kazakhstan determine significant rise of influence of the President as the winner with simultaneous collapse of other political institutions score.

President as ultimate arbitrator

Effectively, Kazakh society is giving full rein to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for building a new political configuration around the presidentship institute as the main capable capstone of political power. The specific feature of the majority of the post-Soviet countries is that all the fibers of power join in the hands of the president as the ultimate arbitrator. The essence of this arbitration doctrine is as follows: the head of state should be rising above all the political forces and guarantee normal operation of the bodies in lawful manner. In other words, the President reserves the weighty say for himself, which may be extremely instrumental at any critical moment.

The example of the post-Soviet countries, as well as of some European countries shows that weak presidential power is a straight way to the nationhood disintegration. On the contrary, strong presidential power guarantees territorial integrity, independence and interethnic concord. Here we may agree with Daniyar Ashimbayev, the political analyst from Kazakhstan: «In the environment of on-going external pressure, sharp social differentiation, concentration of extensive resources in the hands of oligarchs, stigmatization and radicalization of the significant part of the population, strong presidential power may assure the stability and integrity of the country».

We can draw some analogy here between the current position of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and the situation of Vladimir Putins first term in office. Then the RF President was widely popular with the citizens, but found himself in a condensed political environment consisting of the former President Yeltsins associates and affluent oligarchs. He also faced a series of complications in the economy and public administration, for example, the problem of a short subs bench, so well-known to Tokayev. President Putin was able to turn the tide by establishing an efficient presidential vertical, by on-going sourcing and rotating the personnel selected based on the principles of competency, efficiency and allegiance to the country and its President.

Apparently, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev may follow the same well-tested track, giving the priority to reforming the security/defense/law enforcement agencies, judicial system and public administration in general. In his recent interview at Qazaqstan TV channel he highlighted that the replacement of specialists will be a gradual phased process. «We need to remember that public service is not a testing ground for experiments. It would be wrong just to fire all the specialists at once. We do not need a political purge», Tokayev emphasized. In the horizon until 2024 campaign, he will be relying, first of all, on the presidential administration, which became the key decision-making center after January events. [12]

Three scenarios of transit

Three neighboring countries in Central Asia Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan demonstrate the entire spectrum of political transit options. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the Turkmenistan leader, decided to go along the treadmill of establishing an Oriental dynasty. It is settled that in Turkmenistan power will pass «from sire to son». Just a few days ago, extraordinary presidential campaign started in the country, and the first candidate is Serdar Berdimuhamedow, the Vice-Premier of Turkmenistan government and the son of the incumbent President.

Kyrgyzstan suffered through a series of coup dtat attempts and dramatic transitions from presidential republic to parliamentary republic and backwards. Effectively, Kyrgyzstan political system became the adverse selection, and today de-factor the country is balancing on the edge of the failed state. With every new coup dtat or an electoral cycle social relations in this small Central Asian country show steady decay in the economic, political and social spheres. The crises are reproduced in Kyrgyzstan leadership on an on-going basis, which confirms the following observation: there are no responsible politicians in the county, only a small group of highly ambitious persons, who stick together only due to their common desire for power and wealth whatever it takes. It is now time to speak about the «Somalization» of Kyrgyzstan and the negative example that Bishkek shows to other post-Soviet countries. [13] We can only hope that when the new President Sadyr Japarov comes into power, the negative trends in Kyrgyzstan will be minimized and then subdued.

After the death of autocrat Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan preserved the stability and became the testing grounds for successful reforms. After coming into power in September 2016, the new President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced massive change. First of all, he did everything to dissociate with the hardline regime of decedent Karimov. Secondly, liberal economic reforms with elements of rational conservatism were launched in Uzbekistan;  thirdly, the new leadership of the country started restoring communications with its citizens and with other countries primarily, the regional neighbors and with Russia. President Mirziyoyev was good in convincing the world that from now on it is profitable and safe to invest into Uzbekistan economy, because the country is experiencing eruptive growth and is launching its new industrialization. [14]

It stands to reason that President Tokayev will use the positive practices of the Uzbek neighbor. At least because the two other ways are roads to nowhere. The negative experience of Kyrgyzstan has already become an example of what should not be done across the entire region. The principle of dynastic rule also was rejected in Kazakhstan: the coup in January should be viewed as the last attempt to turn the country to archaism. If you take a close look at the recent Tokayevs reforms, you can see many parallels to Uzbekistan modernization program.

Uzbek scenario for Tokayev

Let us compare the recent actions by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev after January events with the reforming practices of Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Firstly, both countries have rebooted their political systems. It is no secret that by the moment Karimov left this world the rigid governance system created by him had turned into a hindrance for the countrys development. In general, the «Nazarbayevs model» may be called the same it used to be dynamic, but gradually became succumb to stardom and then depleted its growth resources. A new energetic leader was required to unblock social elevators and shovel the accumulated backlog aside.

Secondly, experienced system politicians having grown in the local environment and understanding the need for changes appeared as the heads of both states. Thus, Mirziyoyev used to be the khakim of Samarkand, and then the Prime Minister; Tokayed headed the Foreign Affairs Ministry for a long time and presided in the Senate. Knowing the real state of affairs and the established mechanisms of power allows these leaders to quickly realize what needs to be done and the order of the reforms.

Thirdly, there was no general criticism of former leader or fundamental demolition of lifestyle patterns in either country the functioning party and administrative systems were preserved. Only selective persecutions were performed against the most toxic persons of the previous regime. Thus, the elder daughter of the first Uzbekistan President Gulnara Karimova was convicted for blackmailing and extortion, the assets siphoned during Karimovs presidency are gradually brought back. Tokayev pursues practically the same, but softer policy with respect to Elbasy clan.

Fourthly, both Presidents are doing a lot to gather new loyal teams around themselves. For example, Mirziyoyev replaced all Karimovs cronies on positions of heads of ministries and agencies only the Minister of Foreign Affairs retained his post. Young technocrats already working in the system gradually came to the top managing positions. Tokayev follows the same path today, he placed his bet on personnel refreshment. The short subs bench already showed its effect when the new government was formed and in the course of reforming the security/defense/law enforcement agencies. The human resources panoply was established in Kazakhstan back in Nazarbayevs times, they were tested on numerous occasions, people who kept going over the same ground for many years. Today, the majority of them provoke rejection by the masses, they have depleted their potential for efficient performance.

And finally, there is another important aspect, without which successful modernization is impossible the human capital development and new technologies. In this sphere Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan quite predictably count on Russia. For example, both countries executed nuclear energy cooperation agreements with Russia. Currently, Russian companies are active in Kazakhstan (just like in Uzbekistan some time before), as well as Russian universities. If we analyze thoroughly the recently executed cooperation agreements, we can see practically identical lists of the invited universities. After Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power, the relations with the Russian Federation noticeably improved, and Russia enhanced its positions in Uzbekistan. We should expect about the same outcomes of the new political course of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

There is another key point to understand the similarity of modernization projects in two leading countries of the region. Mirziyoyevs election campaign was called «New Uzbekistan», and starting from January 2022 Tokayev launched his «New Kazakhstan» project. The cause of this non-accidental coincidence is clear, because both Presidents have one and the same «guru» Suma Chakrabarti. The ex-president of the EBRD became the advisor to Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in the sphere of economic development, good governance and international cooperation. Prior to that, he was the advisor to Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for economic development, and currently retains the position of the Deputy Chair of the Supreme Council for Reforms with the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In his opinion, the synergy of the two countries and common strategy will help to unite the modernization efforts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which will have a positive effect for the development of the entire region. [15]

Conclusion

There is every expectation that the new political agenda of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev may fly. There are still many problems ahead the obvious inefficiency of the public administration system, concentration of political and economic resources in the hands of a very narrow circle and the deformed structure of the economy having adverse effects on future development. Judging from a series of recent interviews and speeches of the incumbent President, he understands all these aggregated severities very well. The main thing that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has is his determination to implement the long overdue changes, he is ready to stand by his words and to control the achievement of the established tasks and goals. He also can learn his lessons from positive and negative examples of solving the accumulated problems in the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. [16]

The joined interest of Kazakhstans influential neighbors Russian and China in stability and development of the Republic of Kazakhstan as an important geo-strategic and transit territory is another material factor. It is obvious that in future the Russian factor in Kazakhstans politics will be nothing but strengthening. After January events, Russia and its President Vladimir Putin personally are perceived in Kazakhstan as guarantors of stability. It will have a positive impact on intensification of integration processes within Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), on bilateral relations and the policy of the most favored treatment for Russian business. It is important to competently embrace the opening window of opportunities to implement infrastructure development projects, as well as projects in raw materials extraction, agribusiness and cooperation in the cross-border regions development.

During the next two years, Tokayevs administration will be busy with solving tactical tasks to mitigate social tension and will postpone the implementation of strategic reforms for his second presidency. One should not expect drastic change in the economic policy, large-scale asset redistribution or comprehensive nationalization. Otherwise, the parts of elite recently removed from political arena and opposition in exile may join their efforts to use the presidential campaign of 2024 for their destructive purposes.

In general, the political class of Kazakhstan currently united around the incumbent President have one valuable feature the common sense: understanding the need for change and the ability to learn from their own mistakes. The difficulties of transition from the old Soviet system to independence and autonomy consolidated the local political class with the purpose to preserve the country and its sovereignty. The combination of the above-described factors inspires optimism with respect to reformist plans of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

1. Without Elbasy: Tokayev promises to build new Kazakhstan. NEWS. ru, 11.01.2022. https://news.ru/cis/tokaev-podvyol-chertu-pravleniyu-elbasy-i-poobeshal-postroit-novyj-kazahstan/

2. Kazakhstan events: causes, lessons learned and conclusions. Natsionalnaya Oborona, 21.01.2022. https://oborona.ru/product/zhurnal-nacionalnaya-oborona/sobytiya-v-kazahstane-prichiny-uroki-i-vyvody-43194.shtml

3. «President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has a full authority», Nursultan Nazarbayev says. Kazinform, 18.01.2022. https://www.inform.kz/ru/prezident-kasym-zhomart-tokaev-obladaet-vsey-polnotoy-vlasti-nursultan-nazarbaev_a3887495

4. Tokayev appealed to Kazakhstan citizens not to forget the historic merits of Nazarbayev. TASS, 28.01.2022. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/13553899

5. It is not about rescue Tokayev about bringing CSTO troops. TENGRINEWS, 17.02.2022. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/rech-idet-ne-o-spasenii-tokaev-o-vvode-voysk-odkb-462221/

6. Tokayev changed the NSC Head Massimov and his Deputy. Sputnik Kyrgyzstan, 06.01.2022. https://ru.sputnik.kg/20220106/kazakhstan-knb-masimov-sagimbaev-osvobozhdenie-1061027041.html

7. We will present our voluntary dismissal applications: Taldykorgan policemen rallied in defense of their colleague. Caravan, 10.02.2022. https://www.caravan.kz/news/massovo-napishem-raporty-ob-uvolnenii-policejjskie-taldykorgana-vyshli-na-miting-v-zashhitu-svoego-kollegi-815278/?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fzen.yandex.com

8. «We crossed the dangerous line, and if we do not stop, death squadrons will be waiting for us»: a political analyst about events in Kazakhstan. Caravan, 04.02.2022.

https://www.caravan.kz/gazeta/my-pereshli-opasnuyu-gran-i-esli-ne-ostanovimsya-nas-zhdut-ehskadrony-smerti-politolog-o-sobytiyakh-v-kazakhstane-813265/

9. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev talked about the judicial system reform. Kazinform, 29.01.2022. https://www.inform.kz/ru/o-reforme-sudebnoy-sistemy-rasskazal-kasym-zhomart-tokaev_a3892671

10. Tokayev commented the cancelling of part of Nazarbayevs authorities. TENGRINEWS, 17.02.2022. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/tokaev-prokommentiroval-otmenu-chasti-polnomochiy-nazarbaeva-462231/

11. Tokayev will bring to light his political reform plans in his State of the Nation in March. Sputnik Kazakhstan, 17.02.2022. https://ru.sputnik.kz/20220217/tokaev-ozvuchit-politicheskie-reformy-v-svoem-martovskom-poslanii-22888847.html

12. We do not need political purge Tokayev about appointments to high positions.

TENGRINEWS, 17.02.2022. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/ne-nujna-politicheskaya-chistka-tokaev-naznacheniyah-462230/

13. Kyrgyzstan: weak government plus somalization of the entire country. REGNUM, 09.08.2019. https://regnum.ru/news/polit/2685921.html

14. 10 major changes in Uzbekistan during the presidency of Shavkat Mirziyoyev. InformBuro, 08.02.2019. https://informburo.kz/stati/10-glavnyh-izmeneniy-v-uzbekistane-za-vremya-prezidentstva-shavkata-mirziyoeva.html

15. Sir Suma Chakrabarti: «Maintaining the pace of reforms should be the priority for Kazakhstan». Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 16.07.2021. https://www.ng.ru/cis/2021-07-16/100_200515072021.html

16. To Moscow with their own Kazakhstan. Kommersant, 10.02.2022. https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/5206911

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In the aftermath of Elbasy. The key areas of reforming the «Nazarbayevs system»

photo: inbusiness.kz
21 2022

The President of Kazakhstan has noticeably changed the political landscape during just one month after the January events. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev managed to perform capital personnel purges, to deprive a part of Nazarbayevs elite of both power and their assets, and to set up the new government. Nowadays, Tokayev is facing a more difficult task to reform the Nazarbayevs system, or, according to his own words, «to build new Kazakhstan». [1]

The incumbent President came off victorious in the January combat, but so far one cant be sure that the turmoil will not happen again. Nobody can guarantee Tokayev peaceful final of his presidency and re-election in 2024, if he fails to eliminate the root causes of the turmoil. Previously, three sources of the «bloody January» were identified the extended duality of power, massive poverty and growing archaization. [2] Today we will discuss the priority tasks of reforming the Kazakhstan government system. What political problems is Kassym-Jomart Tokayev currently facing, and what are the possibilities of solving them? What will be the impact of Tokayevs «new deal» on Russias position in the region?

Nazarbayevs legacy

The slogan «Shal, ket!» («Go away, old man!») was one of the key demands of the «tragic January». It was the protesters appeal to eliminate Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President, from political life of Kazakhstan together with some of his family members and cronies. The problem of duumvirate, or, in simple words, the «two keys» system (held by the first President and the incumbent President) caused the deadlock of the political system. Some bureaucrats placed their stake on Nazarbayev, while some others on Tokayev. This resulted in non-transparent and cumbersome decision-making, and put the Elbasy (The «Leader of the Nation» in Kazakh language, Nazarbayevs title starting from his third Presidency) cronies out of the control and criticism zone. The dragged transition of power pushed the ambitious part of political elites to undertaking the coup dtat attempt in order to take all the control levers into their hands.

Today there is no duumvirate in Kazakhstan, and Nursultan Nazarbayev, a pensioner, is outside the political framework. The ex-President recorded a video appeal to rebellious Kazakhstan and stated: «President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has a full authority, he chairs the Security Council of Kazakhstan, and soon he will be elected Chairman of Nur Otan (Amanat) political party, hence, there is no political conflict or opposition in the countrys elite». This important action means that the line was drawn publicly under the long Nazarbayevs era. [3]

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was quick in removing the most toxic persons of the first Presidents family and team from their positions. For example, Nazarbayevs nephew Samat Abish was dismissed from the position of the First Deputy Head of the National Security Committee (NSC) of Kazakhstan. Timur Kulibayev, the husband of Nazarbayevs second daughter Dinara and the worthiest man in Kazakhstan (according to Forbes), voluntarily stepped down from the position of the Head of the Kazakhstan Chamber of Entrepreneurs. The husbands of two other Nazarbayevs daughters, Dariga and Aliya, also got their tickets. Kairat Sharipbayev, the boyfriend of the elder Nazarbayevs daughter was dismissed from his positions (Head of KazTransGaz and QazaqGaz). Dimash Dosanov, the husband of Nazarbayevs junior daughter Aliya was excluded from the top management of KazTransOil. Immediate dismissals also occurred among many prominent financial leaders, the alleged «money bags» of the Family (e.g., Kairat Kelimbetov).

It should be highlighted that there were no sweeping punitive measures against the relatives of the first President of Kazakhstan. For example, the above-mentioned Timur Kulibayev had to leave only his public position in the non-government organization, but kept all his money. Nazarbayevs cronies preferred to become low profile in order to take the heat out of the public discussion, to keep their assets and their prominence in political and business life. Certain Family representatives kept their presence in the media, but today there is no Nazarbayevs clan as a political actor anymore.

After that, the Kazakh society was offered to close this sensitive chapter. For example, President Tokayev made the following statement at the congress of the ruling party Nur Otan: «Let us pay tribute to the historic merits of the first President, bring to the forefront his unqualified accomplishments and perfections, and leave behind his possible blunders as lessons to be learned by future leaders of our country». Today there is a lot of talk about finalizing the transition of power from Nazarbayev to Tokayev, but de-facto the final round of this transition will take place at the end of 2024. It will be the time of the Presidential elections according to the RK Constitution, when Tokayev plans his re-election for the second term in office. [4]

Life without Elbasy

During this period of transition, the sweeping criticism of Elbasy a la Khrushchevs thaw period would be destructive for the very foundations of Kazakhstan nationhood. The strategic course, or, as it used to be called, «Nazarbayevs model» comprised social and political stability of Kazakhstan, inter-ethnic and inter-confessional accord, multi-vector foreign policy, start of Eurasian economic integration, successful foreign investment promotion and nuclear non-proliferation effort. All these achievements of Nazarbayevs era cannot be just thrown overboard the modernity without wrecking it.

According to Kazakh experts, «shalketism» will not become a new government policy. The strategic course of Nursultan Nazarbayev will be continued with account of the previous mistakes, which need to be avoided in future. In fact, being a specialist in Chinese studies, Tokayev used the verified model of Beijing comrades: «Mao was 80% right and 20% wrong». He was right in the main thing he built a new state from scratch, and wrong in details, because in the decline of his years he trusted his cronies way too far. These are sensible practices, which should work for Kazakhstan. Why «shoot from the hip», if we can eliminate «separate extremities» and «dizziness from the success».

We may put is straight: the problems of corruption, nepotism and economic monopolism, which are widely spoken about today, were not the priority target for the first Presidents policy. More likely, they were side effects during the process of building the new state and constituted the permanent challenge for Nursultan Nazarbayev. The obvious fact that Nazarbayev rejected the life-time presidency and transfer of power by right of succession makes a compelling case for that.

Why Tokayev was selected as the successor in office? First of all, he was a prominent diplomat capable of assuring international legitimization of the transit. Second, he was a system politician equally-distant from financial groups and the established clans. Tokayev was to become a new «ultimate arbitrator» unquestionably, subject to initial support by Nazarbayev, who held all the political threads in his hands.

As envisioned by Elbasy, the duumvirate policy was meant to assure smooth transition. But the irony was that the dragged duumvirate created the window of opportunities for the coup dtat attempt. Today it is evident that Tokayev strives to pull away from his previous status of Nazarbayevs successor. Neither he needs the weak president image, who was forced to invite CSTO troops to retain the unsteady power. Hence, the impetuous remarks of some Russian experts about «everlasting gratitude» or «obviously pro-Russian course of new Kazakhstan» are within the common logic, and not within political pragmatism.

Just a quote. «It does not mean we owe something to somebody. Kazakhstan is a sovereign state, our policy is independent. I am convinced that any statements about us allegedly owing something to Putin are just cheap talk that needs to be stopped. CSTO task force is not a personal army of Vladimir Putin or Russia. Peacekeeping forces are common for all the member countries of CSTO», Tokayev said in his interview to Qazaqstan TV channel. [5] This dry political logic also explains the impetus and relentlessness of Tokayevs actions today. For the same reason, the unprejudiced strengthening of Russias positions in Kazakhstan will be accompanied by seemingly low-key rhetoric. According to Kazakh traditions, there has to be only one khan, even if he is elected and sometimes looking over his shoulder at neighboring Russia and China, but still decisive and sovereign in his territories.

Audit of security, defense and law enforcement agencies

The first and the foremost ask of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is to prevent the January scenario repetition. This requires unbiassed investigation of the coup dtat attempt, punishment of the guilty and drastic personnel reshuffle in the security, defense and law enforcement agencies. Remember that in response to the protests 6,000 people were detained and over 1,800 criminal cases were initiated. According to the General Prosecutors Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan, at least 225 people were killed as a result of riots, 19 security/law enforcement officers among them. The number of injured or aggrieved persons is estimated at 4,578 people including 3,393 security/law enforcement officers. According to the preliminary assessment of Kazakhstan authorities, January turmoil resulted in USD 260 mln economic loss.

After the start of the turmoil, Karim Massimov, the Chairman of the National Security Committee, his First Deputy Samat Abish (Nazarbayevs nephew) and a number of top security officials were dismissed and later arrested on treason charges. Murat Bektanov, the Minister of Defense, along with some other top-ranking military officers were removed from office. Changes took place in police and other law enforcement agencies, except for the General Prosecutors Office and the Anti-Corruption Agency, which became the Presidents «retributive sword». [6]

All of it tells us that the incumbent President has very little credit to the security, defense and law enforcement agencies, especially to the National Security. The expectations are that the National Security Committee will be divided into several agencies: the sources are quite sure that the Border Guards Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service soon will be detached from the NSC. A significant effort will take place to establish Presidential control over the security agencies and their regular reporting. Further personnel purges are expected in these agencies, new entrants will be coming from other law enforcement agencies along with civilians (the «Tokayevs draft»).

Posttraumatic syndrome

After January events, police also found itself in a rather sensitive situation. Police has always been one of the important supports the regime was leaning on. In the most difficult times during the previous turmoil and recent lockdown the police were at the front-line assuring security in the streets. Nowadays, the police officers in Kazakhstan are under the triple crossfire. On one hand, law enforcement officials were humiliated by the mobs violence in January: their heads were cut-off, they were stripped naked, forced to their knees and impelled to recant. On the other hand, they are facing a true information terrorism from media and social media demanding scathing rebuke of the police for the «innocent victims of January». And thirdly, the personnel reshuffle in a series of regional police departments were perceived hyper-sensitively as an infringement of the established law-enforcement «corporation» and as an attempt of the government to turn the police into the «scape goats». [7]

The posttraumatic syndrome ordeal, according to some local sources, started to manifest itself in the growing cruelty of police officers during detention and interrogation. The police community discuss the possibility of setting up informal groups similar to «death squads» in Latin America for quick response to the criminals and protection of the police officers and their family members from violence. Marat Shibutov, an analyst from Kazakhstan, believes it to be an alarming sign of post-Soviet countries sliding from the «Second World» to the «Third World». The history of Latin America shows that whipping up a mutual violence spiral may only grow stronger. [8]

Secondary effects of this detrimental process will happen in the form of regular riots of urban lower classes and social outcasts in response to the total lawlessness on behalf of the police, as well as the readiness of enclosed law-enforcement «corporation» to dislodge weak civilian government. On top of that is «privatization of violence»: numerous security companies of Kazakhstan oligarchs, which de-facto are small private armies, as well as athletic-criminal organizations participating in forceful redistribution of businesses on a regular basis. Kazakhstan may find itself in a dangerous whirligig, when the government loses its priority function the monopoly for violence and justice. The neighboring Kyrgyzstan is an example, where the government is a conglomeration of criminal and regional clans. Hence, President Tokayev perceives the reform of law-enforcement and judicial systems with the utmost seriousness. [9]

Political reform itchiness

In the course of January events and immediately after them pleas were heard for drastic revision of the political system in Kazakhstan. For example, returning to 1993 Constitution, to diminish the presidential powers, as well as to establish unicameral parliament and to call extraordinary elections in accordance with the newly introduced rules. All these highly emotional pleas seem to be hasty and even dangerous for Kazakhstan nationhood. The Gulf War Syndrome may also occur, when liberal political reforms are running ahead of the economic development and the self-consciousness of the public resulting in the state collapsing into archaicism.

In reality, the effective RK Constitution has not exhausted its constructive potential. All the opportunities exist for accurate fine-tuning of the political system taking into account the accumulated problems. For example, to assure civil dialogue within the framework of the effective Constitution, which was recently cleaned from the latest novelties associated with excessive privileges of Elbasy. The Constitutional Law about the President also may be amended with account of potential risks of corruption and restrictions for the status of the relatives of the President. However, overall, the RK Constitution is a solid framework for Kazakhstan nationhood. [10]

It is especially important today to preserve the bicameral parliament, where the Lower House represents the entire population (directly via single-mandate districts or on a party list basis), and the Upper House represents the regions and certain social groups. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has been the leader of the Senate for a long time and knows well how important it is from the constitutional standpoint. Firstly, it is a standing body of the so-called «guarding power», which is important for stabilizing potential political conflicts; secondly, the vetting role of the Upper House allows it to filter out costly and populist bills; thirdly, the appointment of some senators according to the presidential quota may become a powerful mechanism for bringing «fresh blood» to the parliament. The rotation of Mazhilis members elected on a party list basis should be enhanced for the same reasons, leaving only the workable group of the legislators. Parliament should not be the place for Instagram stars (Meta Platforms is recognized as extremist organization and banned in the RF), picturing their happy and wealthy life for the poor electorate.

On the other hand, the parliament per se and regional legislatures the maslikhats should be to the maximum extent separated from the dominance of the government and akims (heads of local administrations), and should be vested with serious controlling functions. For example, mandatory parliaments approval of the appointed heads of the regulating agencies. A strong and independent maslikhat will allow for accumulating social energy in the respective territories and will supervise the expenditure of the upgraded budgets allocated to akims (heads of the regions) on an on-going basis. The direct appointment of akims in metropolitan and major cities should be preserved as a tool for assuring the integrity of the country and providing equal opportunities for the regions. The head of the region appointed by the President is an effective counterbalance against localism and nepotism, which has been successfully demonstrated in Russia.

The detailed audit of all the available levers of power should be the priority task for the incumbent President. He should focus on the priority issues and leave the tasks of new political system design for his second term. Figuratively speaking, one needs to repair the fractures in the foundation first, without spending efforts and time for renovating the states facades. We shall see it in near future. The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev intends to submit his proposals for political reforms as soon as the next month. «Now the decision is made that I will propose the political reforms in my State of the Nation in the middle of March», Tokayev declared. [11] Most likely, the State of the Nation will focus on mitigation of social risks, which triggered the protests in January: the growing income inequality, low level of education, high inflation rates and regional development disparities. All these are tactical matters imposed by the situation and are openly populist.

Crash-test for the government machine

During his period in office, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev faced two powerful stress-tests for Kazakhstan political system: severe lockdown and «bloody January». Both of them demonstrated that certain political institutions in the «Nazarbayevs model» had a merely decorative function and had absolutely no impact in the crisis times. They were, for example, Assembly of People of Kazakhstan (APK), trade unions, opposition parties, etc. Some other political institutions were operating in the «flashing power» mode, i.e., were performing from to time and hid at the most critical moment. Those were, for example, Nur Otan the party in power, Mazhilis and even the judiciary system.

Effectively, only the Presidents Administration, executive power bodies (akims system turned out to be more efficient than the government) and security/defense/law enforcement agencies (even though not all of them demonstrated their best features in the course of the crisis) showed uninterrupted functioning. The behavior of Kazakhstan political system at the time of emergency should be subject to the most thorough investigation on behalf of Ak Orda Presidential Palace - for future work on the lessons learned. Today, Tokayev is free from any informal obligations to Elbasy and can «finetune» Kazakhstan political establishment as he sees fit.

Recently, the Center for Strategic Initiatives published the social score, which showed absolute dominance of President Tokayevs figure. In December 2021, his political rating was high 68.5% across all the regions. It grew by 7.3% during the recent two years (from 60.8% in 2019) despite the pandemic and severe lockdown with all that implies. The Presidents confidence rating exceeded that of the regional akims; as for the government, only one out of three respondents trusted it. It is worth noting that the judicial system and media were at the end of the list. The new social score after January events has not been published yet, but the majority of sociologists in Kazakhstan determine significant rise of influence of the President as the winner with simultaneous collapse of other political institutions score.

President as ultimate arbitrator

Effectively, Kazakh society is giving full rein to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for building a new political configuration around the presidentship institute as the main capable capstone of political power. The specific feature of the majority of the post-Soviet countries is that all the fibers of power join in the hands of the president as the ultimate arbitrator. The essence of this arbitration doctrine is as follows: the head of state should be rising above all the political forces and guarantee normal operation of the bodies in lawful manner. In other words, the President reserves the weighty say for himself, which may be extremely instrumental at any critical moment.

The example of the post-Soviet countries, as well as of some European countries shows that weak presidential power is a straight way to the nationhood disintegration. On the contrary, strong presidential power guarantees territorial integrity, independence and interethnic concord. Here we may agree with Daniyar Ashimbayev, the political analyst from Kazakhstan: «In the environment of on-going external pressure, sharp social differentiation, concentration of extensive resources in the hands of oligarchs, stigmatization and radicalization of the significant part of the population, strong presidential power may assure the stability and integrity of the country».

We can draw some analogy here between the current position of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and the situation of Vladimir Putins first term in office. Then the RF President was widely popular with the citizens, but found himself in a condensed political environment consisting of the former President Yeltsins associates and affluent oligarchs. He also faced a series of complications in the economy and public administration, for example, the problem of a short subs bench, so well-known to Tokayev. President Putin was able to turn the tide by establishing an efficient presidential vertical, by on-going sourcing and rotating the personnel selected based on the principles of competency, efficiency and allegiance to the country and its President.

Apparently, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev may follow the same well-tested track, giving the priority to reforming the security/defense/law enforcement agencies, judicial system and public administration in general. In his recent interview at Qazaqstan TV channel he highlighted that the replacement of specialists will be a gradual phased process. «We need to remember that public service is not a testing ground for experiments. It would be wrong just to fire all the specialists at once. We do not need a political purge», Tokayev emphasized. In the horizon until 2024 campaign, he will be relying, first of all, on the presidential administration, which became the key decision-making center after January events. [12]

Three scenarios of transit

Three neighboring countries in Central Asia Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan demonstrate the entire spectrum of political transit options. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the Turkmenistan leader, decided to go along the treadmill of establishing an Oriental dynasty. It is settled that in Turkmenistan power will pass «from sire to son». Just a few days ago, extraordinary presidential campaign started in the country, and the first candidate is Serdar Berdimuhamedow, the Vice-Premier of Turkmenistan government and the son of the incumbent President.

Kyrgyzstan suffered through a series of coup dtat attempts and dramatic transitions from presidential republic to parliamentary republic and backwards. Effectively, Kyrgyzstan political system became the adverse selection, and today de-factor the country is balancing on the edge of the failed state. With every new coup dtat or an electoral cycle social relations in this small Central Asian country show steady decay in the economic, political and social spheres. The crises are reproduced in Kyrgyzstan leadership on an on-going basis, which confirms the following observation: there are no responsible politicians in the county, only a small group of highly ambitious persons, who stick together only due to their common desire for power and wealth whatever it takes. It is now time to speak about the «Somalization» of Kyrgyzstan and the negative example that Bishkek shows to other post-Soviet countries. [13] We can only hope that when the new President Sadyr Japarov comes into power, the negative trends in Kyrgyzstan will be minimized and then subdued.

After the death of autocrat Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan preserved the stability and became the testing grounds for successful reforms. After coming into power in September 2016, the new President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced massive change. First of all, he did everything to dissociate with the hardline regime of decedent Karimov. Secondly, liberal economic reforms with elements of rational conservatism were launched in Uzbekistan;  thirdly, the new leadership of the country started restoring communications with its citizens and with other countries primarily, the regional neighbors and with Russia. President Mirziyoyev was good in convincing the world that from now on it is profitable and safe to invest into Uzbekistan economy, because the country is experiencing eruptive growth and is launching its new industrialization. [14]

It stands to reason that President Tokayev will use the positive practices of the Uzbek neighbor. At least because the two other ways are roads to nowhere. The negative experience of Kyrgyzstan has already become an example of what should not be done across the entire region. The principle of dynastic rule also was rejected in Kazakhstan: the coup in January should be viewed as the last attempt to turn the country to archaism. If you take a close look at the recent Tokayevs reforms, you can see many parallels to Uzbekistan modernization program.

Uzbek scenario for Tokayev

Let us compare the recent actions by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev after January events with the reforming practices of Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Firstly, both countries have rebooted their political systems. It is no secret that by the moment Karimov left this world the rigid governance system created by him had turned into a hindrance for the countrys development. In general, the «Nazarbayevs model» may be called the same it used to be dynamic, but gradually became succumb to stardom and then depleted its growth resources. A new energetic leader was required to unblock social elevators and shovel the accumulated backlog aside.

Secondly, experienced system politicians having grown in the local environment and understanding the need for changes appeared as the heads of both states. Thus, Mirziyoyev used to be the khakim of Samarkand, and then the Prime Minister; Tokayed headed the Foreign Affairs Ministry for a long time and presided in the Senate. Knowing the real state of affairs and the established mechanisms of power allows these leaders to quickly realize what needs to be done and the order of the reforms.

Thirdly, there was no general criticism of former leader or fundamental demolition of lifestyle patterns in either country the functioning party and administrative systems were preserved. Only selective persecutions were performed against the most toxic persons of the previous regime. Thus, the elder daughter of the first Uzbekistan President Gulnara Karimova was convicted for blackmailing and extortion, the assets siphoned during Karimovs presidency are gradually brought back. Tokayev pursues practically the same, but softer policy with respect to Elbasy clan.

Fourthly, both Presidents are doing a lot to gather new loyal teams around themselves. For example, Mirziyoyev replaced all Karimovs cronies on positions of heads of ministries and agencies only the Minister of Foreign Affairs retained his post. Young technocrats already working in the system gradually came to the top managing positions. Tokayev follows the same path today, he placed his bet on personnel refreshment. The short subs bench already showed its effect when the new government was formed and in the course of reforming the security/defense/law enforcement agencies. The human resources panoply was established in Kazakhstan back in Nazarbayevs times, they were tested on numerous occasions, people who kept going over the same ground for many years. Today, the majority of them provoke rejection by the masses, they have depleted their potential for efficient performance.

And finally, there is another important aspect, without which successful modernization is impossible the human capital development and new technologies. In this sphere Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan quite predictably count on Russia. For example, both countries executed nuclear energy cooperation agreements with Russia. Currently, Russian companies are active in Kazakhstan (just like in Uzbekistan some time before), as well as Russian universities. If we analyze thoroughly the recently executed cooperation agreements, we can see practically identical lists of the invited universities. After Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power, the relations with the Russian Federation noticeably improved, and Russia enhanced its positions in Uzbekistan. We should expect about the same outcomes of the new political course of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

There is another key point to understand the similarity of modernization projects in two leading countries of the region. Mirziyoyevs election campaign was called «New Uzbekistan», and starting from January 2022 Tokayev launched his «New Kazakhstan» project. The cause of this non-accidental coincidence is clear, because both Presidents have one and the same «guru» Suma Chakrabarti. The ex-president of the EBRD became the advisor to Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in the sphere of economic development, good governance and international cooperation. Prior to that, he was the advisor to Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for economic development, and currently retains the position of the Deputy Chair of the Supreme Council for Reforms with the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In his opinion, the synergy of the two countries and common strategy will help to unite the modernization efforts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which will have a positive effect for the development of the entire region. [15]

Conclusion

There is every expectation that the new political agenda of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev may fly. There are still many problems ahead the obvious inefficiency of the public administration system, concentration of political and economic resources in the hands of a very narrow circle and the deformed structure of the economy having adverse effects on future development. Judging from a series of recent interviews and speeches of the incumbent President, he understands all these aggregated severities very well. The main thing that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has is his determination to implement the long overdue changes, he is ready to stand by his words and to control the achievement of the established tasks and goals. He also can learn his lessons from positive and negative examples of solving the accumulated problems in the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. [16]

The joined interest of Kazakhstans influential neighbors Russian and China in stability and development of the Republic of Kazakhstan as an important geo-strategic and transit territory is another material factor. It is obvious that in future the Russian factor in Kazakhstans politics will be nothing but strengthening. After January events, Russia and its President Vladimir Putin personally are perceived in Kazakhstan as guarantors of stability. It will have a positive impact on intensification of integration processes within Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), on bilateral relations and the policy of the most favored treatment for Russian business. It is important to competently embrace the opening window of opportunities to implement infrastructure development projects, as well as projects in raw materials extraction, agribusiness and cooperation in the cross-border regions development.

During the next two years, Tokayevs administration will be busy with solving tactical tasks to mitigate social tension and will postpone the implementation of strategic reforms for his second presidency. One should not expect drastic change in the economic policy, large-scale asset redistribution or comprehensive nationalization. Otherwise, the parts of elite recently removed from political arena and opposition in exile may join their efforts to use the presidential campaign of 2024 for their destructive purposes.

In general, the political class of Kazakhstan currently united around the incumbent President have one valuable feature the common sense: understanding the need for change and the ability to learn from their own mistakes. The difficulties of transition from the old Soviet system to independence and autonomy consolidated the local political class with the purpose to preserve the country and its sovereignty. The combination of the above-described factors inspires optimism with respect to reformist plans of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

1. Without Elbasy: Tokayev promises to build new Kazakhstan. NEWS. ru, 11.01.2022. https://news.ru/cis/tokaev-podvyol-chertu-pravleniyu-elbasy-i-poobeshal-postroit-novyj-kazahstan/

2. Kazakhstan events: causes, lessons learned and conclusions. Natsionalnaya Oborona, 21.01.2022. https://oborona.ru/product/zhurnal-nacionalnaya-oborona/sobytiya-v-kazahstane-prichiny-uroki-i-vyvody-43194.shtml

3. «President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has a full authority», Nursultan Nazarbayev says. Kazinform, 18.01.2022. https://www.inform.kz/ru/prezident-kasym-zhomart-tokaev-obladaet-vsey-polnotoy-vlasti-nursultan-nazarbaev_a3887495

4. Tokayev appealed to Kazakhstan citizens not to forget the historic merits of Nazarbayev. TASS, 28.01.2022. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/13553899

5. It is not about rescue Tokayev about bringing CSTO troops. TENGRINEWS, 17.02.2022. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/rech-idet-ne-o-spasenii-tokaev-o-vvode-voysk-odkb-462221/

6. Tokayev changed the NSC Head Massimov and his Deputy. Sputnik Kyrgyzstan, 06.01.2022. https://ru.sputnik.kg/20220106/kazakhstan-knb-masimov-sagimbaev-osvobozhdenie-1061027041.html

7. We will present our voluntary dismissal applications: Taldykorgan policemen rallied in defense of their colleague. Caravan, 10.02.2022. https://www.caravan.kz/news/massovo-napishem-raporty-ob-uvolnenii-policejjskie-taldykorgana-vyshli-na-miting-v-zashhitu-svoego-kollegi-815278/?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fzen.yandex.com

8. «We crossed the dangerous line, and if we do not stop, death squadrons will be waiting for us»: a political analyst about events in Kazakhstan. Caravan, 04.02.2022.

https://www.caravan.kz/gazeta/my-pereshli-opasnuyu-gran-i-esli-ne-ostanovimsya-nas-zhdut-ehskadrony-smerti-politolog-o-sobytiyakh-v-kazakhstane-813265/

9. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev talked about the judicial system reform. Kazinform, 29.01.2022. https://www.inform.kz/ru/o-reforme-sudebnoy-sistemy-rasskazal-kasym-zhomart-tokaev_a3892671

10. Tokayev commented the cancelling of part of Nazarbayevs authorities. TENGRINEWS, 17.02.2022. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/tokaev-prokommentiroval-otmenu-chasti-polnomochiy-nazarbaeva-462231/

11. Tokayev will bring to light his political reform plans in his State of the Nation in March. Sputnik Kazakhstan, 17.02.2022. https://ru.sputnik.kz/20220217/tokaev-ozvuchit-politicheskie-reformy-v-svoem-martovskom-poslanii-22888847.html

12. We do not need political purge Tokayev about appointments to high positions.

TENGRINEWS, 17.02.2022. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/ne-nujna-politicheskaya-chistka-tokaev-naznacheniyah-462230/

13. Kyrgyzstan: weak government plus somalization of the entire country. REGNUM, 09.08.2019. https://regnum.ru/news/polit/2685921.html

14. 10 major changes in Uzbekistan during the presidency of Shavkat Mirziyoyev. InformBuro, 08.02.2019. https://informburo.kz/stati/10-glavnyh-izmeneniy-v-uzbekistane-za-vremya-prezidentstva-shavkata-mirziyoeva.html

15. Sir Suma Chakrabarti: «Maintaining the pace of reforms should be the priority for Kazakhstan». Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 16.07.2021. https://www.ng.ru/cis/2021-07-16/100_200515072021.html

16. To Moscow with their own Kazakhstan. Kommersant, 10.02.2022. https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/5206911