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Analysis: “The internal struggle for power behind the scenes in Kazakhstan”

When Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Zumart Tokayev addressed the House of Representatives this morning, the message was clear: the crisis is over, new times are coming.

An essential part of this was the financial commitments. Last week, attempts to appease dissatisfied citizens made up half of Tokayev’s political and carrot strategy. The other half, the whip, was about the violent suppression.

So far, Model 1A follows the entirety when it comes to suppressing political protests. The thing that stood out the most was Tokayev’s precise and directed formulations from his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

massive corruption

Nazarbayev left the presidency in 2019 and handed over to his successor, the chosen one, Tokayev, but remained a kind of official father of the country. Nazarbayev had ruled the country since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Coincidentally, Nazarbayev and his circle during this period became very wealthy, while large sections of the population did not see the smoke of Kazakhstan’s colossal natural wealth. The protests were sparked by rising gas prices, but quickly expanded into broader political anger with Nazarbayev focused.

An internal struggle for power?

Despite the internal discontent, Tokayev chose early on in sweeping terms to point to foreign actors as responsible for the unrest. It’s also a classic maneuver, which in this case as a bonus, Tokayev asked his allies in the Russian-led military coalition CSTO for help.

When undemocratic leaders in this way, without any known evidence, blame domestic problems on malign forces from outside, they are of course met with reasonable skepticism from outside observers. The frequent reflex is also to take a step forward and assume the truth is the direct opposite. In this case, the (too simplified) protests consisted entirely of ordinary, unhappy people with justified anger and very reasonable demands.

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This also appears to be the case most of the time. But based on testimonies at once in Kazakhstan, among other things, the picture emerges of how the protests were affected by a power struggle, including New York times And CNN mentioned in the.

Absentee Country

The powerful people in Nazarbayev’s circle seem to have at least tried to use the protests to strengthen their hand against the incumbent President Tokayev. Nazarbayev himself has not been seen during the protests and there is strong speculation about his whereabouts.

The power struggle within the elite may also explain some of the CSTO’s efforts. Tokayev said on Tuesday that the CSTO forces would start packing their belongings within two days. The fact that the operation was very limited indicates that its purpose was token support to Tokayev and not an operation against the alleged “terrorists”.

Such a political signal would be especially important if there was an internal power struggle, and the CSTO, led by Russia, wanted to show that the party of the incumbent president had been elected.

many explanations

Of course, signs of an internal power struggle are not evidence that the protests in Kazakhstan are not Also It was about gas prices, corruption, and general public discontent. On the contrary, it seems that these local factors played the biggest role, and it was they that led many Kazakhs to take to the streets to demonstrate.

But what it does indicate is that events rarely have a single cause. It usually becomes more complex when different players see an opportunity to participate. An important drawback is that we still have very incomplete information about what exactly happened.

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But when the dust settles, many point to a more chaotic picture. To the extent that outside viewers will know what actually happened.

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SVT reporter Matilda Nyberg interviewed FOI’s Johan Engvall about how Kazakhstan, despite its oil and natural gas, was a country living in abject poverty. Photo: SVT