Prepared by Sophya Balakina
In the results of the contest “Politician - 2006”, organised by the information analytical agency “Marketing and consulting”, in the category “disappointment of the year”, the respondents voted for the crisis in the opposition. Experts and general public unanimously found the uncompromising discord of the opposition leaders to be the most annoying political fact.
The main problem for the opposition in the post-Soviet territory is the absence of new competitive ideas and significant leaders. This applies to Kazakhstan’s opposition in full measure. Everything that it suggests is either already taken into the arsenal of the ruling power or cannot withstand criticism. The only exceptions from the rule were DPK “Ak zhol” and RP “Asar”, which suggested extensive, though not indisputable, programmes of political and social reform. This fact is evidence that only these parties had a systematic approach to their work. The disappearance of these parties caused left an absence of ideas in the opposition.
Thus, the first thing for the Kazakhstan’s opposition to do is to comprehend the present socio-political and economic reality of Kazakhstan, and to suggest to society new competitive ideas for its development.
The second serious problem is the need for the opposition to work as a united front. Today, we observe the concentration of the pro-governmental powers. Logically, the analogous processes should take place in the opposition. However, this is not happening. The reason is that among the opposition members there is no universally recognised political leader. This brings us the second task – the search for a political leader and unification based on a competitive idea, different from the one suggested by the ruling power.
There is no telling whether this is possible or not. All opposition parties are built around their leaders, and the selfish ambitions of the leaders is one of the main problems impeding the unification.
First of all, the opposition should present their “political idea”; in other words, formulate it clearly and announce it to the general public. The rhetorical figure of “50 competitive states” is also not a propaganda masterpiece. However, strangely enough, it influences the consciousness or sub-consciousness of average citizens. The important illusion, that the government knows what it is doing and where it is going, is created. The opposition’s propaganda, which has unconvincing semantics (“everything is bad” because “the ruling power is corrupt”), cannot change the course of the game. Its mythology doesn’t correspond with the general public’s consciousness, which is not overloaded with various extraordinary conditions and adapted to the reality, with all of its associated problems. Their personal economic behaviour, aiming for some level of consumption, blocks the self sacrificing enthusiasm for fighting tyrants, which the opposition tries to invoke. They don’t take into account the most important circumstance, in that the general psychological climate in the country is not that of a poor worker, but rather of a petty-bourgeois with a comfortably full belly; such an atmosphere doesn’t cause revolutionary storms. Thus, the resemblance of a riot can appear in “Shanyrak”, but the streets and squares are quiet, because nobody who can make a living (speculate with the apartments, buy and sell land, lend property out, sell imported cars, lend money for interest, make profits from manipulations with mortgages) wants to rebel.
In short, I think the opposition loses out by not working hard enough. They are satisfied with banal words, whereas instead they should reconsider the political reality. They do not search for words that would better describe the current reality and its imperfections; they only melancholically blame the government in an uninventive way. I think they lack talented people. The government also doesn’t have them, but it has more resources, which can compensate for this for some time. Opposition is the attacking party, it should have many people like Matrosov, Gastello and Klochkov; however, all these roles are solely played by the fifty year-old Bulat Abilov… Life is sad, gentlemen.
Fragmentation of the “opposition” is natural and inevitable, because they have a weak social ground. The democratic urban intelligentsia class is small, the entrepreneurial class is weak and busy with overcoming the “administrative barriers”, the ordinary people fight for their living and the leaders are “under control”, either being observed or prosecuted. No comprehension and unification can occur in such conditions.
Not only the opposition, but also the government needs to pay attention to the analysis and solution of a very important and, at the same time, very concealed question – the question of nationalities.
As of the 1st January 2006, national minorities made up 41.4% of the population of Kazakhstan. All of them are discriminated against.
The multi-ethnical Kazakhstan doesn’t have the concept of an ethnic policy. Kazakhstan’s legislation includes only general clauses regarding the rights of minorities, and it lacks articles securing the rights of ethnic minorities. In particular, it lacks articles on racial discrimination, language, on the rights to use one’s native language and culture, free choice of language of interaction, upbringing, education and art. Moreover, Kazakhstan’s legislation, which should protect the rights of minorities, doesn’t have the term “ethnic minority”, and no article has a definition of discrimination agreeing with the International convention of elimination of all forms of discrimination.
The development and adoption of special anti-discrimination laws has still not been included in the plans of legislative work of the government and the parliament of Kazakhstan. The government doesn’t include a special body, a ministry or an agency, and the two Chambers of the parliament do not have a committee on ethnic issues.
Actually, I don’t get involved in politics. However, if we speak of the opposition, I think that currently Kazakhstan doesn’t have any worthy opposition. There was a period when the public was somewhat disappointed by the activities of the “Otan” party, which zealously activated its work only before the elections. And after the elections the party’s enthusiasm decreased, following the usual pattern of periodical increase before elections.
I considered the “Asar” party not as an opposition party, but as an alternative to “Otan”. Maybe the unification of the parties “Asar”, “Civil party” and “Otan” into one national-democratic party “Nur Otan” would allow the problems, set by the President of our country Nursultan Nazarbaev, to be solved more efficiently.
I wish that the development of the processing industry in Kazakhstan and saturation of the market with domestically produced consumer goods would become the “political idea of the year”. With respect to light industry, despite international tendencies for its development, this industry is in crisis in Kazakhstan. The process of crowding out the domestically produced textile goods, and light industry goods in general, from the home market is continuing. Kazakhstan, despite having huge potential (a large amount of labour, raw materials and other resources), is completely dependent on imports of textiles and light industry goods.
The growing needs of the population are mainly met by imports, mostly undeclared, forged and produced in the underground. This type of imported consumer goods has a share of imports in excess of 95%. This is the main problem for the development of the light industry in Kazakhstan. An unhealthy condition in the consumer goods market is formed; that is, domestic production of the goods decreases to critical point, and the dependency on imports increases.
In my opinion, the “crisis in the opposition” and the “uncompromising discord among the opposition leaders” are two different dimensions of the problem.
In general, there is a crisis in the opposition, and it becomes apparent primarily in the absence of an inflow of new people (and ideas) into the opposition. The reason for this is not the deterioration of the state of the opposition (with the exception of the loss of Altynbek), but the continuing growth of the economy based on petrodollars, the “cold breath” from the North, and, in some way, cyclic recurrence of public’s interest in politics.
With respect to the “uncompromising discord”, the presence of differences in the approaches towards the authoritarian regime among various opposition groups is a natural state, mirroring the state of society as a whole.
However, the opposition groups held more or less the same position, cooperating and supporting each other on the key political issues of last year’s agenda. For example, take the position of the DPK towards the Chairmanship of Kazakhstan in the OSCE.
However, if the “fight for the power” within the opposition is the meaning of the “uncompromising discord”, I’d like to repeat again; opposition is not a governmental body with an approved list of staff members, where all places are taken. Opposition is an open room, which anyone can enter and take any place, if he or she has ideas and plans. Thus, several political scientists are enough to criticise the opposition, while others should help the opposition.
Thus, answering your question, my advice is not aimed towards members of the opposition, but to society: if you don’t support corruption, social differences and stagnation, help the opposition with ideas, money and action. Then there will be less disappointments.