Kazakhstan after Nazarbayev: 3. Changing of the Guard

3 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 third instalment:

The Leader may feel its time to make sweeping changes in Kazakhstan with a changing of the guard by handing the reins of power to a younger figure to represent a break with the past. Two candidates spring to mind here – Imangali Tasmagambetov and Kairat Kelimbetov.

Imangali Tasmagambetov (image taken from http://www.astana.kz website)

Imangali Tasmagambetov, the current Mayor of Astana, is a former Prime Minister and Mayor of Almaty. He’s a popular figure, having served both Astana and Almaty well as Mayor. According to some reports, he may even have political principles – he reportedly resigned as PM in 2003 over a rigged vote of confidence in his government.

He cuts a more youthful and urbane figure than many of the grey men of Kazakh politics and has shown a willingness to embrace new technologies by holding Internet conferences and running an interactive page on his mayoral website. Born in 1956, he represents a younger generation in Kazakh politics and has the personality that would be able to push the country forward, if his track record in Almaty and Astnan is anything to go by.

A negative factor could be his perceived aloofness from the electorate. He’s a Kazakh speaker, but comes from a tradition of Kazakh intellectuals and does not come across as a man of the people. He lists as his hobby ‘the problems of history, ethnography and archaeology of Kazakhstan’.

Kazakh nationalists may not forgive him for labelling people protesting the destruction of their homes ‘social outsiders‘ in the 2006 property and land disputes in the Bakay and Shanyrak areas on the outskirts of Almaty. The protestors were in the main Kazakh speakers so were Tasmagambetov to become president, he should not expect as easy a ride as Nazarbayev has had at the hands of the ever more vocal nationalists.

Kairat Kelimbetov

Kairat Kelimbetov (image taken from http://www.weforum.org website)

Kairat Kelimbetov is a dark horse for the top job. Despite being only 42, he has held a number of key positions in Kazakhstan. He is currently the Minster of Economic Development and Trade and prior to that he was head of the state’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Samruk-Kaznya.

Kelimbetov studied at Georgetown University and is often wheeled out to represent Kazakhstan at big economic forums around the world. His strong background in economics and his fluency in English combined with his relative youthfulness makes him an attractive proposition for foreign governments and investors.

He would be the ideal candidate to make a clean break with the past as he is not seen to be too tainted by the Soviet era. However, his not entirely fluent Kazakh language skills may be a disadvantage – but he does have  the charisma to appeal to the electorate. Keep him in mind as a dark horse, though, biding his time while the other candidates fall to political in-fighting.


One Response to “Kazakhstan after Nazarbayev: 3. Changing of the Guard”

  1. Authorized mediator April 24, 2014 at 12:34 am #

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