Leaderless, spontaneous protests spread rapidly across Kazakhstan in early January. In this Q&A, Crisis Group explains that demonstrators’ varied demands reflected discontent with worsening inequalities and calcified leadership and discusses the implications of the ensuing government reshuffle and mass arrests.
Amid limited space for political campaigning, President Tokayev won landslide victory in snap election before reaffirming ties with Russia.
Re-election of Tokayev paves way for seven-year term. Kazakhs 20 Nov headed to polls to vote in snap presidential election, which incumbent President Tokayev won in landslide victory, securing over 80% of vote. Victory allows Tokayev to extend his presidential term by seven years under country’s new term limits. Tokayev’s Sept announcement to hold election gave his opponents little preparation time, raising concerns around lack of competition. Notably, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe observer mission 21 Nov said “early presidential election took place in a political environment lacking competitiveness, and while efficiently prepared, the election underlined the need for further reforms (…) to ensure genuine pluralism”.
Tokayev reaffirmed ties with Russia in first foreign visit since election. Tokayev 28 Nov met Russian President Putin in Moscow amid public disagreements over Ukraine; notably, Tokayev had declined to recognise Russia’s declared annexation of four Ukrainian regions. Still, Tokayev reaffirmed bilateral relations, saying “Russia is and has always been a strategic partner” while Putin hailed “special” relations between Moscow and Astana.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Elissa Jobson are joined by KIMEP University Professor Nurseit Niyazbekov to talk about what has happened since last January's deadly protests in Kazakhstan, prospects for political reform and the future of Kazakhstan-Russia relations.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk to Nurseit Niyazbekov, professor of international relations at Almaty’s KIMEP University, about the wave of protests that swept across Kazakhstan, why they happened and their implications for the future.
This week on War & Peace, post-Soviet security expert Dr Erica Marat joins Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope to discuss the drivers of anti-establishment protests and the policing thereof across Central Asia and globally.
Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
Kazakhstan’s wish for stability and continuity under long-serving President Nazarbayev trumps the will for political change, especially given turbulence elsewhere on Russia’s borders. But without economic reform, full ethnic equality and a political succession plan, the Central Asian country risks becoming another brittle post-Soviet state vulnerable to external destabilisation.
In late 2014, consultant and former Crisis Group researcher, Varvara Pakhomenko, journeyed to the northern Kazakh steppe, and the towns and villages along Kazakhstan’s Russian border, to learn more about the interwoven relationship between the Kazakh and Russian speakers of the area.
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