Experts explain success of operation “Successor” in Kazakhstan

President of Kazakhstan resigned, leaving "iron-clad guarantees”.

Kazakh leader, Kasym-Zhomart Tokaev, has been in this position for more than a year. At the same time, the first president of the country Nursultan Nazarbayev continues to be almost the main political figure in the republic. Earlier Almazbek Atambayev, did almost the same when “promoted” Sooronbai Jeenbekov as president of Kyrgyzstan. As a result, Atambayev received a prison sentence. The editors of asked experts to comment on the nuances of Kazakhstan’s domestic policy, starting with the “promotion” of Tokayev and ending with comparison it with the situation in Kyrgyzstan.

Why Tokaev?

Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev was the speaker of the Senate when, in March 2019, Nazarbayev officially bet on him as a person worthy of being the new head of the state. A logical and rhetorical question arose: why did Tokaev become the successor? There were arguments why the active and "media-popular" Nazarbayev’s daughter - Dariga - did not continue her father’s work.

Tokaev did not take an active part in the political life of Kazakhstan before, said a researcher at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies, IMI MGIMO, Ph.D. Olga Podberezkina.

- It is extremely difficult to answer the question of why Tokayev was elected. He is a man who, in my opinion, was not considered for the supreme position in public circles and around political circles. The official also did not participate in political intrigues and, by the way, was not noticed in corruption. But he’s extremely experienced due to “old, Soviet” school. He went through many important positions in a difficult time for the country, - said Podberezkina.

She also highlighted that Tokayev had been already known at that time in the international arena, and neighboring countries could support his candidacy.

Political analyst, the co-chair of the Club of Regional Experts of Kyrgyzstan “Pikir”, Igor Shestakov, marked that the successor project has been discussed in Kazakhstan for 5-6 years. In his opinion, Nazarbayev has decided who is going to be a presidential candidate.

- ...the candidacy of Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev was very often called among those who could lead the country after the departure of Nursultan Nazarbayev. And that was quite logical, since Tokaev had vast experience working at the highest and most responsible government posts, not only in Kazakhstan, but also at the level of the UN deputy secretary-general, and was the general director of the UN office in Geneva, - reminded Shestakov.

He also noted the fact that Tokaev was well aware of high-ranking politicians of the countries of Central Asia and such significant states as Kazakhstan, China, Russia.

Both experts agree that the daughter of Elbasy - Dariga Nazarbayeva had no real chance to lead the country.

- Speaking of his eldest daughter, despite the fact that Kazakhstan is officially a secular country, nevertheless, 70 percent of the population is Muslim, there is a strong cultural and national trait and it determines that a woman is not a leader and it would probably be wrong for her to take part in the presidential elections, although there were such rumors I think people would not support her, - noted Olga Podberezkina.

She also reminded that the late Dariga’s husband had a difficult relationship with the 1st president; her son-in-law was even accused of murders and an attempt to seize power.

- The chances that Dariga Nazarbayeva would lead the country, replacing her father, were minimal. It was mainly a media trend that was actively used to discuss who will replace the first president. Perhaps Nazarbayev’s circle included those who, tried to solve their political problems with promoting the topic of Dariga’s presidency. The former leader himself made a choice in favor of his historical mission for the further development of Kazakhstan, - said Shestakov.

He didn’t make a mistake

The current president leads the country since March 2019 but has already shown himself to be a good manager, although his decision to rename the capital caused a negative reaction from citizens, highlighted Podberezkina. According to the expert, there have been more protests in the country with the arrival of Tokaev, a "thaw" is felt.

- I think that Tokayev has more likely met the expectations of Yelbasy, - commented Podberezkina.

Igor Shestakov added that during the presidential election, Tokayev promised to continue the strategic course of the first president, focusing on what he sees as his task in ensuring the continuity of Nazarbayev’s policy. Basically, Tokayev’s work was related to measures on improving the socio-economic status of citizens and aimed at supporting business. The political scientist believes that according to the results of the first year, we can say that he kept his word, and that he controls the situation amid the pandemic.

Not really dependent president

Since Nazarbayev succeeded Tokaev, only a few people considered the new leader of the country an independent figure. However, in a year, experts note that although Nazarbayev hasn’t left the political Olympus, it is no longer possible to say that the current head of the state is completely controlled by Elbasy, but there are no conflicts between them.

- At the very beginning of his presidency, Nazarbayev’s influence on Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev was clearly visible. There was a time when Tokaev decided to change one of the akims in one of the regional centers and a decree was immediately issued. It demonstrated that the president coordinates all major appointments with Elbasy, - said Podberezkina.

Nevertheless, the expert noted that Tokayev’s slow but sure movement towards independence is felt.

- ... After all, it is quite natural that Tokayev has his own team of state managers, which solves the assigned tasks. However, Nazarbayev, as the head of the Security Council, has mechanisms to influence key appointments in law enforcement agencies. So, in certain issues, Tokaev and Nazarbayev need compromises and consensus, primarily in personnel matters. But in general, I do not think that the president is constantly keeping an eye on his predecessor. There are examples when Tokaev gave instructions to conduct checks on possible facts of corruption related to a number of high-ranking officials who have worked since Nazarbayev’s time, - said Shestakov.

The political scientist added that Tokayev enjoys the confidence of the people and ensures the consensus of the elites; he becomes a completely independent politician.

Atambayev couldn’t, but Nazarbayev got it.

In 2017 the President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev explicitly made Sooronbai Jeenbekov the successor. According to popular expert opinion, he was going to control his protege in the future, remaining a “gray cardinal”. As a result, Jeenbekov began to show independence, Atambaev went to open conflict, but came under investigation and received 11 years in prison. Olga Podberezkina believes that Atambaev, unlike Nazarbayev, "did not fix his power."

The expert reminded that Elbasy is now not just the 1st President, he is the lifetime head of the Security Council, Honorary Senator of Kazakhstan, a lifetime member of the Constitutional Council, chairman of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan and head of the ruling party Nur Otan. She added that the history of the Turkic-speaking peoples suggests that it is impossible to leave without “iron-clad guarantees” in the Central Asian countries.

Igor Shestakov marks the huge difference between Nazarbayev and Atambayev, underlining the overt weakness of the second politician. It is also demonstrated by the fact that the SDPK in Kyrgyzstan, unlike Nur Otan, has seriously lost its significance in society.

- Atambaev was not, unlike Nazarbayev, the leader of the nation, as it was demonstrated after he left the position of the president. His party SDPK quickly collapsed, which today can only show the status of a political anecdote, taking into account how recent like-minded party people already divide letters from the party plate, - said Shestakov.

According to the political scientist, Atambayev mistakenly considered himself the actual owner of the country, although he was only elected president for 6 years. During the transit of power, Nursultan Nazarbayev paid attention to the state interests first, and not exclusively personal political ambitions. It is the key difference, stressed the expert.

The editorial office notes that over the years of independence in Kazakhstan there have been no revolutions and upheavals, unlike in Kyrgyzstan, where two presidents had to flee during 29 years of independence.

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