It is hard to say that last month was as full of interesting political events as shashlik is full of juicy meat. The main attention was focused on continuing financial sector fever and a “roller coaster” of unstable prices, which had a great resonance in public and made government engage in populism and shake its fist in the air. Though even a scarce menu can have a few delicious courses, which are impossible to forget for a long time.
Let’s begin with the ridiculous one, i.e. with our parliament. It is evident that one party dominant Mazhilis and practically one-party government will not have mutual conflicts resulting in vote of no confidence for whole government. There are two reasons for this. First, new parliament was too quickly to express its support to the government of Karim Masimov, and consequently, incurred the responsibility for its work. Second, only the President has the right for the last word at the government and parliament conflict. Though formally, according to the constitutional amendments, the deputies with the majority of votes can express the vote of no confidence, however, they hardly will, knowing that the President, leader of party “Nur Otan” and basic center of political decisions, is the main arbiter of government’s destiny.
The fact that some deputies express their indignation because of increasing prices and inflation is no more than grandstand play. Let’s remember that parliament of the last convocation also was quite talkative, but it did not stop government from pushing through the necessary bills, especially the ones included into the presidential list of priorities. Moreover, the imperative mandate and party discipline will hang above deputies like a sword of Damocles. It seems that the deputies got themselves into a complex situation when they had to eat their cake and have it.
The only outlet for the parliamentarians is the opportunity to express distrust to one (specific) individual minister, which is quite real. But again it would be a conflict situation, which both the Speaker of Mazhilis and the head of parliamentary fraction of “Nur Otan” will most likely try to avoid. It is also necessary to note, that the political environment, whether intense or calm, will to a great extent depend on those officials. Keeping in mind that both Aslan Musin and Bahytzhan Zhumagulov are more political conformists than activists, it is unlikely that they will take some extraordinary steps.
In spite of the fact that the parliament has two leaders, the Speaker and the head of parliamentary fraction of “Nur Otan”, they both are sympathetic towards “Ak Orda”. But as a proverb says: “two sheep head can not enter one pan”, therefore, the forecasts of some Kazakh experts about the possible inter-group clashes for influence, resources and force access in “Nur Otan” are entirely justified. According to the constitution, Speaker of Mazhilis has a status of the third person after the President. On other hand, the head of parliamentary fraction of “Nur-Otan” is the first vice-president on a party line. The first official has higher juridical status, the latter political. And it is hard to say what their cooperation will be like.
At present time, Russian neighbor actively invents new mechanism that will enable Putin smoothly regain the power after year 2008. It means that the President Vladimir Putin gave his consent to head the party in power at coming in December elections to State Duma. At the same time he did not deny the possibility of becoming Prime Minister in the future. This situation is interesting not because it increases the intrigue about Putin’s political career after the elections in 2008, but because it encourages the new model of maintaining the authority, without the amendments to Constitution, palace intrigues and revolutions at post - Soviet states. It seems that this situation has nothing to do with Kazakhstan, but everything is learned in comparison.
We are talking about velvet power succession which, as some Russian experts note, will enable Putin, who has no party status, not only to become the head of the government of parliamentary majority, but also keep real power of the first person of the country. Therefore it is not crucial who gets the presidential post as long as the incumbent country leader will control parliament and government. As required by the Constitution Putin will leave the presidential post, only to come back to Kremlin sometime later and make his successor just a nominal figure. All this will happen under slogan: ”Putin’s Plan – victory of Russia”. It slightly reminds election slogan of the Kazakh pro-presidential groups: “Nursultan – Kazakhstan”. Paraphrasing the words of British ex Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Putin as well as the majority of his colleagues in CIS countries, have the same thought: “I will stay till I will get tired. But until my country needs me, I will never get tired”. In fact Putin will try to, as Nursultan Nazarbayev suggested him lately, maintain power for the third term. And Putin will manage to do that. However, he will use more sophisticated methods within the acting legislation to maintain power, than some leaders of the post-Soviet states. Some of them declared themselves as lifelong Presidents, others conducted experiments with Constitution or coached successors from the Family.
It means that after the presidential elections in 2008, Russia will demonstrate the second model of bloodless transition of authority. Yeltsin implemented the first model quite successively. Therefore, other Presidents of the CIS countries, who are still thinking over “how to leave, but stay”, have a wider choice of these models – from unattractive Turkmen to extremely sophisticated Russian model. By the way now this is burning issue for the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov. Presidential elections will be held in December in the Republic. Therefore, Kazakh amendments to the Constitution concerning the first President and Russian scenario might be interesting for him. After all it is not possible to have referendums on prolongation of the authority for an eternity.
Therefore, it is possible to say that at present time already a number of models of maintaining the power or change of authority exists at post- Soviet territory: Russian (successor); Azerbaijani (dynastic form of authority transfer); Ukrainian (victory of counter-elite); Georgian (victory of counter-elite); Kyrgyz (victory of counter-elite); Turkmen (The king died! Viva the king!) ; Kazakh (constitutionally perpetual mandate for the first President).
It is amusing that while post-Soviet leaders actively search for answer to the question: “How to leave, but stay?”, they continue to express their support of Kazakhstan as a candidate for the post of the ОSСЕ chairing country in 2009. This topic was one more course at limited political menu of our republic. From the beginning of October it was given publicity at least three times, each time from absolutely different position.
First time was when Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi stated that his country will support Kazakhstan as a candidate for the post of the ОSСЕ chairing country in 2009. At the same time, considering present unfavorable conditions, it is not clear whether those statements were candid. However, all measures to save the reputation of “Eni” Italian company, the operator of “Agip KCO” consortium, are justified, including praise to Kazakh government for which the idea of chairing OSCE, especially in 2009, became a point of honor.
On the other hand, it is necessary to understand, that support of Italy, in contrast to that of London and Washington, which do not seem to approve our candidacy, does not increase chances of Kazakhstan to chair OSCE. Moreover, according to some sources, USA is planning to suggest Kyrgyzstan as a candidate for the post in 2009 or later. It would be a great surprise for everyone, including Kyrgyzstan, which is experiencing political fever since 2005. The reason for such support from USA is not clear, as Kyrgyzstan is also not a good example of democratic development.
Moreover, visit of Knut Vollebek, OSCE Supreme Commissar on national minorities’ affairs, who was also very approving of Kazakh model of international stability preservation, will hardly change present distribution of power. Still this model is one of the trump cards of the officials representing the candidacy of Kazakhstan in OSCE.
But, apparently, for the OSCE this model is, although a strong point, but not winning one. In addition, Kazakh opposition made a bad impression. Some of the oppositionists, such as Asylbek Kozhahmetov, doubted this model during OSCE conference on human measurement in Warsaw. Others, like Galymzhan Zhakiyanov in Almaty, also opposed it. However, at present time it is no longer crucial issue for the opposition because of new process of political demarcation between “Bright Path” (“Nagyz Ak Zhol”) and “Nationwide Social Democratic Party”. This situation is like a political dessert, because one of the favorite activities of analytics in Kazakhstan is not only criticizing the authorities, but also censuring their opponents.
Opposition in Kazakhstan at last broke the silence after parliamentary elections and announced the beginning of schism. Formally it is called “qualitative structuring of democratic forces”. But practically it means that the Democratic Party “Nagyz Ak Zhol” and “Nationwide Social Democratic Party” decided to move back to their headquarters, thus, putting an end to their pre-election union. Two leaders could not get along after all. It is not clear whether these tactics will strenghen the opposition and provide it with promising future; but these changes will most likely be the next dissapointment to the part of electorate, which has always been supporting the opposition. It is interesting to note that back in August of 1999 “Politon” discussion club reached the following verdict about opposition of Kazakhstan: “Parties are personified, leaders’ personal qualities and ambitions mainly shape their activities… The majority of this day’s opposition leaders are the outsiders of regime, former governmental officials. Politics – is their style of life. Being in opposition is the opportunity to retrieve what they lost in a legitimate way”. Presidential and parliamentary elections proved that during last eight years this sutuation has not changed.