Dosym Satpaev – political scientist
Frankly, the year 2006 happened to be rich with very contradictory events, and no doubt it will be written down into the history of the sovereign Kazakhstan.
The year started quite gloomily, with the Kazakhstani community being shocked by the murders of Altynbek Sarsenbaev, Bauyrjan Baybosyn and Vasily Zhuravlyev. The killings created a strong echo, not only among the members of the opposition, but also among the political and business elite of the republic, which was represented through the statements made by both the pro-presidential party and representatives of large businesses. Another reason why the echo created by the murder was significant is that it happened within a short period after the strange death of Zamanbek Nurkadilov, while the tension had not vanished. All of the above became an alarm signal to the elite. The unwritten law, which existed within the current political system, has been broken. The law is very simple: if you go against the system, the system will punish you; however, the system recognised the clear limits of the punishment. Such an anxiety among the elite is quite dangerous for those in power, because their strength for a long time was based on the confidence of the elite towards the main decision-making centre – the President. The President was supported because he was the guarantor of safety. The elite always knew that he makes the decisions that satisfy most of them. Now the confidence has disappeared. Many of the elite feel that they are not untouchable anymore. However, the saddest fact is that another dark stain in Kazakhstan was created, which was not cleared by the murder investigation, as this failed to shed light on the true reasons behind it.
Probably in the future this murder is going to be used by some political figures as an instrument to discredit opponents within the Kazakhstani elite.
One could say that the death of a well known politician opened a page of serious social conflicts, which stirred up the whole country. The year 2006 appeared to be worryingly rich with different explosions of social discontent, which sharply contrast with the always proclaimed stability and economic growth of Kazakhstan. These included conflicts in the “Shanyrak” micro-region, disorder in Aktau, the strike of miners in Karaganda, conflict between Kazakh and Turkish workers in Tengiz, and the HIV tragedy in Southern Kazakhstan. Although the reasons for and members of these events are different, all of them inform us about a large number of illnesses of Kazakhstan, which, in due time, could not be given or were not chosen to be given attention. Now the neglected problems come to the surface in a more dangerous form. Once, one of the opponents of Confucius Mo Tzu (sometimes referred to as Mozi) wrote “to establish order in a country one needs to know the reasons of disorder”. Nobody in Kazakhstan has provided the society with an objective picture illustrating the percentage of population that feels humble and insulted. The above mentioned “Shanyrak” clearly shows that there are such people in the republic, and their proportion in the cities will increase every year, because the discrepancies in economic development of regions are not corrected. People will move to Almaty or Astana in search of a better life. But who knows how those people are going to behave if they do not find a better life anywhere? What is the dangerous critical mass that can explode tomorrow? There is a true danger that, with a small amount of middle class in Kazakhstan, those people can become the vanguard of political maximalism, if they obtain a leader and a proper organisation. This process has already started. Just notice what a large number of different politicians and deputies decided to use the conflict of huts and palaces to earn their own political dividends. It’s hard to imagine anyone not involved, including the opposition representatives, national patriots and members of the pro-presidential power. The result of this social conflict was the creation of new social-political organisations.
Last year significant changes happened in the political parties of the country, where the process of consolidation of some political powers was accompanied by a division of others. Once, Mikhail Tomsky, a member of the Bolshevik party, said that there are multiple parties in the Soviet Union - one has the power and the others are in prison. Although some people state that these words were said by Nikolai Bukharin, it is actually not very important. A more interesting notion is that there are soviet-type, jesuitical forms of multi-party systems and its softer forms on the post-Soviet territory. With respect to Kazakhstan, one could expect that our primitive multi-party system will become a history, because one party has the power and the others are either within it or under its umbrella.
The process of consolidation of pro-presidential parties that started from unification of the “Otan” and “Asar” parties is increasing its speed. Other parties, the appearance of which was as a result of artificial creation, which is an attribute of many organisations that proudly call themselves a political party, also start to fall into the orbit of the ruling party. Thus, by the next parliamentary elections, Kazakhstan will have a leading party Gulliver surrounded by political Lilliputians, just for the numbers. The latter include the suddenly emerged “Atameken” party, as well as the Social-Democratic party of Zharmakhan Tuyakbay. In Kazakhstan, there is a category of politicians that are called “political boomerangs”. They are launched into their flight from a point to follow a predetermined trajectory by some political circumstances and conditions to return after a period of time to the starting point. This is a quite common phenomenon in the political world; in a way, it is a method of political survival. To all appearances, Zharmakhan Tuyakbay, who, in this very year after his notorious move into opposition, met the President for the first time, can be attributed to this category of politicians. It appears that Tuyakbay does not see his future in ZSK, or opposition in general, although one shouldn’t exclude the possibility that, in the best scenario, he would try to turn his party into a bridge between the ruling power and opposition, which disappeared after the death of Altynbek Sarsenbaev. The ruling power, which understands that it cannot always ignore the opposition, at least because it doesn’t agree with the possible status of the OSCE leader, also needs this bridge. However, it seems that the opposition will not be recognised as an equal partner of the ruling power of Kazakhstan.
It is worth noting that, figuratively, the process of gathering ammunition, took place not only in the political area, but also in information and economic spheres, where it was accompanied by loud scandals. Some Kazakhstani journalists and deputies, somehow connected with the mass media, recognised a threat to freedom of speech in the adoption of the new law called “About Mass Media”, initiated by the Ministry of Culture and Information. This resulted in a joining of efforts, unnoticed earlier in the mutual sympathies of journalist organisations. This is not surprising because, through these amendments to the law, one could see the new information policy of the country’s leader, who decided to establish order in the mass media organisations that for a long time were strong political instruments in the hands of some elite groups. Excessive and thoughtless use of this instrument threatened first of all the elite itself, with serious political consequences. And in this year the executive branch, represented by the administration of the President and Ministry of Truth, tried to retain control over the information sphere of the country by attacking the interests of some influential groups.
Besides, this demonstrative assault was also made on the national companies. It is unlikely that huge monthly salaries of top managers of some national companies were a surprise, especially to the leader of the country. It is not a coincidence that this is finally discussed publicly now, especially in the world of bureaucracy. Quite possibly, some elite members decided to make others vulnerable in the fight for such an attractive place under the sun. On the other hand, all of this can blend into another tendency of strengthening governmental control over the activities of national companies by creating “Samruk” holding that controls government assets; here, the administration of the President also plays the key role.
In 2006 the role of Security Council became more important, and the sessions of its meetings produced wild reactions among bureaucrats as well as general Kazakhstani community. Take as an example the declaration of the President made on the Security Council meeting about the mechanism of State machinery reformation, or the instructions to prohibit imports and the use of cars with the wheel on the right side. It appears that the positions of Marat Tazhin and his team, who supervise the activities of Security Council, have risen within the power hierarchy. That is indeed a well-deserved reward for the successfully organised presidential elections and active ideological work in presenting Kazakhstan as a promising country. The ideological novelty about Kazakhstan joining the list of fifty competitive countries of the world is also a good move. Someone is positioning this novelty almost as a national idea, while at the same time nobody explained to the population why it should be fifty counties and what the criteria are to enter the list. It seems that here, as in show business, they figured that the masses would fall for anything. Most likely, after the famous program 2030, our ideologists fell under the influence of the magic of numbers. In fact, Kazakhstan cannot be presented as a top ten progressive country, whereas to be part of the top hundred is not particularly prestigious; thus, they found the happy medium in the fifty. This also agrees with the new international status of Kazakhstan as the chairman of CIS, which is already contesting the chairmanship of OSCE, and already had a chance to play a role in the summit of the G8 in St. Petersburg. However, it turns out that judging by some economic parameters, Kazakhstan seems to come close to the magic number, but judging on others, it is becoming further away.
However, along with the above, it would be subjective not to mention the attempts of the government to rid the republic of its image as a supplier of raw materials. After all, in this very year the mechanism by which the state budget is formed was changed, with the revenues from the sales of raw materials now being directed to the National Fund. Thus, Kazakhstan has done what has not yet been done by the neighbouring Russia – the main feature of the state budget for 2007 is that almost 85% of the income side comes from sources that are not connected with oil and gas. The industries of raw materials will only provide 15%, in the form of guaranteed transfers from the National Fund to the development programs. At the same time, it is obvious that the government creates an artificial deficit in the presence of an evident surplus. One of the goals of the government is to keep inflation under control. As a result of that, the expenditures on the social sphere are not very high. In particular, the expenditure from the state budget for education will be 3.6% of GDP, while in 2003 it was 3.4%. The expenditure for healthcare will be 2.6%; that is, slightly more than half of what was recommended by the WHO. At the same time, the expenditures for public administration, internal security, law enforcement bodies and defence are significantly higher. Institutes of development will get significant financial support, as they will be provided with 87 billion tenge. Also, 40 billion is budgeted for the Fund for Sustainable Development, “Kazyna”. This shows that the government considers those institutes as a priority from the point of view of changing the raw material orientation of the country towards industrial-innovative development, which is currently not proceeding very actively.
The fact that the activity of institutes of development and innovation funds create more criticism than delight is another question. Indeed, the sluggish realisation of the adopted industrial-innovation program continuously gave the cause to rumours about a forthcoming dismissal of the government with the Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov at the head of it. Moreover, the VIth Congress of Financiers of Kazakhstan, with the involvement of President Nursultan Nazarbaev showed high-principled conflicts between some members of the Kazakhstani business-elite and the prime minister Danial Akhmetov. It is known that the relations between the chairman of board of directors of Halyk Bank, Grigory Marchenko, and prime minister Danial Akhmetov have not been simple for a long time. Thus, another criticism from him towards Akhmetov wasn’t unexpected. What has grabbed attention is that other influential Kazakhstani financiers supported the criticism, as did, for example, Mukhtar Ablyazov. All of this shows that the relations between them and the Prime Minister are heading towards a serious conflict, which, first of all, relates to the questions of external borrowing by the banks, which is being argued against by Danial Akhmetov. The hidden reason is that Kazakhstani bankers are sure of the impending dismissal of Danial Akhmetov. Probably after the approval of the budget for 2007, the government might retire, although there are no obvious reasons for the President to be unsatisfied with the actions of Akhmetov. The rumours about the dismissal largely depend on the fact that traditionally the President, Nursultan Nazarbaev, allows prime ministers to hold office for not more than four years. This is why many people expect that the new year 2007 will have a new government, which will be expected to deliver a more successful realisation of already adopted economic programs. Without the completion of these, one can only dream about a competitive Kazakhstan.
All these events are only a part of another year of independent Kazakhstan’s life. Let us consider it as a turned page of our common book. In a short while, it will become history, which probably will determine the vector of the future economic and political development of the country. And here I’d like to quote the words of the well known Polish writer Karol Izhikovski: “People are forced to make conclusions from the past; whereas only what will happen, what has to be done now, will explain to us what actually happened and what its meaning was”.