Kazakhstan after Nazarbayev: 2. The Old Guard

1 Aug

With rumours whirling around in the last few weeks about the health of Kazakhstan’s long-time president, the focus has once again turned to succession scenarios in Astana.

Kazaxia has decided to gaze into its crystal ball and look at some of the possible frontrunners should the Leader of the Nation decide to call it a day – here’s the second instalment:

2. The Old Guard

President Nazarbayev has some long-term lieutenants from the old days who can be trusted to carry out orders and get things done the way the president likes. Under consideration today are two members of the old guard: Nurtay Abykayev and Akhmetzhan Yesimov.


Nurtay Abykayev (image taken from http://www.wok.kz website)

Abykayev has served Nazarbayev faithfully over the years and has been at various times Ambassador to the Russian Federation and the UK and chairman of the Senate of Kazakhstan. He has had a chequered political career but has always managed to bounce back into power.  He is seen as a safe pair of hands and is currently head of the KNB, the national security agency.

Like Nazarbayev he is from the south of Kazakhstan and is part of the President’s intricate balancing act between the clans from different areas of the country. He is an insider who knows all the ins and outs of Astana politics so would make a good candidate from that point of view.

A negative factor could be his age – he’ll be nearing 70 in 2016 when the next election is slated for. His age and background as a long-term insider may mean he would be resistant to the reforms and changes that some establishment circles feel Kazakhstan needs to make. He would represent a definite continuation of the status quo rather then a break with the past.

Akhmetzhan Yesimov (image taken from http://www.wok.kz website)

Yesimov is another veteran loyalist from the Soviet era. He has a background in farming having worked as the director of a collective farm. He worked his way up through the ranks and was Kazakhstan’s Minister of Agriculture for many years. He is currently Mayor of Almaty, a position he has held since 2008.

During his watch in Almaty he has failed to come to grips with the city’s chronic transport problems.  A possible scenario if he were to run the country could go like this – expect to see Kazakhstan turned into one huge gridlocked road with scant tree cover and a huge cloud of smog enveloping it.

He ticks all the political boxes having served as a Deputy Prime Minister, but again he represents more of a stop-gap throwback to the past rather than the dynamic figure Kazakhstan needs to push it forwards.


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