Tokayev : Personnel changes continue in Kazakhstan. The administration of the president of the republic was headed by Murat Nurtleu, who since January 5 worked as deputy head of the KNB. Yerlan Koshanov became the head of the Lower House of Parliament. In addition, a new composition of the political bureau of the ruling Nur Otan party was announced, which did not include Dariga Nazarbayeva and other people close to Elbasy. In parallel, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, supported the Eurasian integration of his country.
Nurtleu, the new head of the presidential administration of Kazakhstan, was born in Alma-Ata in 1976. He began his political career at the republic’s Foreign Ministry, an agency that is considered Tokayev’s fiefdom. In particular, he was an adviser to Tokayev when he headed the Foreign Ministry. In 2019, the chief became president, and Nurtleu was made his assistant.
The new speaker of the lower house of parliament, Yerlan Koshanov, was born in 1962 in the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan. From September 2019 until recently, he headed the administration of President Tokayev. As Speaker of the Parliament, Koshanov replaced Nurlan Nigmatulin, a prominent figure in Nur Otan, the former head of the parliamentary faction and chairman of the Majilis since 2016.
Significant reshuffles also took place in Nur Otan itself. The Bureau of the political council of the party no longer includes the eldest daughter of Nursultan Nazarbayev Dariga, his associates Askar Mamin, Bauyrzhan Baibek and others. The day before, Nazarbayev himself handed over to Tokayev the leadership of the party named after the first president.
In Alma-Ata, which at the beginning of 2022 was in the center of attention of the world media, the akim was replaced. Bakytzhan Sagintaev gave way to Yerbolat Dosaev. Under Tokayev, Sagintayev would have been appointed head of the presidential administration, although he worked there for only 3 months, and then left to lead Alma-Ata. During the protests, the mayor’s car was fired upon, and those accompanying Sagintaev were injured, but he himself was not hurt. Dosaev, on the other hand, is still in charge of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, in addition, before that he managed to visit the Minister of Health, Finance and Economy.
“On the one hand, Tokayev arranges his people, on the other hand, he removes the main political heavyweights who can prevent him from sticking to his line. In particular, all serious people were removed from the Nur Otan political bureau, leaving only Tokayev and his entourage. The party lost its untouchable status and received a powerful incentive to develop in a competitive environment,” head of the Eurasian Expert Council Chingiz Lepsibaev told MK.
According to the expert, now the main intrigue is where the former Nur Otan leader Nigmatulin will be appointed. “He is one of the most influential people in Kazakhstan, perhaps second only to Tokayev. It is possible that he will be made the akim of Nur-Sultan, which is now led by Baibek’s man. At the same time, Baibek and Nigmatulin are at enmity with each other … Be that as it may, Tokayev’s main task now is to undermine the “food base” of the heavyweights formed under Nazarbayev,” Lepsibayev suggests.
As for the mayor of Alma-Ata, the head of the Eurasian Expert Council notes that almost no one in Kazakhstan believes in the reality of the assassination attempt on Sagintaev. According to one version, it was a performance by which the mayor tried to evade responsibility for the events in the city. In this regard, Lepsibaev has no doubts about the relevance of replacing the akim, but there are questions about the new mayor.
“Erbolat Dosaev has a property that is very important for a politician – he comes out of any scandal dry. At the same time, at the age of 51, he is a dollar millionaire, although he could not achieve any significant success in life, ”says the expert.
In addition to personnel changes, Tokayev is slowly introducing some changes in foreign policy. He has already stated that for Kazakhstan, Eurasian integration is a priority direction of development. Plus, Kazakhstan is going to create its permanent representation at the CSTO in Moscow.
“Now everyone is wondering why Tokayev decided to declare Eurasian integration. The fact is that inside Kazakhstan this issue is not on the agenda at all. The EAEU is remembered exclusively in a negative way, 90% of economists say that Kazakhstan loses up to 3% of GDP on membership in this organization. All the hopes of Kazakh entrepreneurs about entering the Russian markets failed. The expert community is discussing Kazakhstan’s exit from the EAEU,” Lepsibayev told MK.
However, Stanislav Pritchin, senior researcher at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies at IMEMO RAS, believes that Tokayev remembered the EAEU and the CSTO not by chance. “Now Kazakhstan does not have so many topics that, in general, could contribute to the unity of the country. Eurasian integration is one of them. At the same time, statements that the EAEU does not bring any benefit to Kazakhstan do not correspond to reality.
First, it is facilitated transit of goods through Russia. Secondly, if Uzbekistan joins the EAEU, Kazakhstan will become a major transit hub in Central Asia. And Kazakhstan’s withdrawal from the EAEU and the CSTO will lead to the breakdown of the country’s entire foreign policy strategy, and the consequences can be severe both for Tokayev personally and for the whole of Kazakhstan,” Pritchin said.
The expert emphasizes that Tokayev did not say anything new, he only confirmed the course that was taken by the leadership of the republic even before his presidency. “A certain canalization of the negative associated with the Eurasian integration of Kazakhstan can be explained by two reasons. First, opponents of this process in the West are trying to discredit the EAEU. Secondly, it is always convenient to write off the country’s internal problems on supranational structures.