Tokaev retraces Nazarbayev's path
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The presidential elections, brought forward after the reform of the Constitution, will be held on 20 November. Like his predecessor, the president is distancing himself from the parties and presenting himself with a 'popular coalition'. Curiosity for one of the three women candidates.  

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Registration of candidates for the presidency of Kazakhstan at the polls on 20 November has been completed, with 11 candidates, including three women. President Kasym-┼Żomart Tokaev strongly wanted these early elections, following the changes to the Constitution approved this year, and the announcement of a phase of major social and political changes. Many commentators, however, believe that Tokaev is very afraid of losing power, and is actually retracing the same paths as the 'eternal president' Nazarbayev, whom he would like to make forget.

Interviewed by Radio Azattyk, Kazakh political scientist Viktor Kovtunovskij points out that the president is standing in the elections again, distancing himself from all parties as the head of a 'popular coalition' that is not new in Kazakhstan's recent history, having already been conceived by Nazarbaev in 2005, and then copied also by Vladimir Putin in Russia after 2012. "Tokaev is repeating many of his predecessor's choices, and the coalition is not even provided for by our laws, according to which a candidate is proposed by a party or a social organisation," notes the expert.

The entire election campaign, says the expert, 'is controlled and directed by the old bureaucratic apparatus, and one cannot expect much new compared to the practices of the 'father of the fatherland' Nazarbaev'. On 6 October, the popular coalition organised a large gathering of supporters to 'rally around Tokaev', also a practice inherited from the past. Slogans reminded that 'one does not change horses when crossing the ford' and that 'we need stability as the world sinks into chaos'.

The president has assured that he will not engage in exhausting campaigning activities, to 'concentrate on his direct presidential responsibilities', and the many international summits in Kazakhstan in recent times are presented as successes of the policy of mediation between the many contenders. This makes the 'state propaganda' line of the only real candidate in the upcoming elections even more obvious.

The opponents at the moment do not seem to have to worry about Tokaev's re-election, although 48-year-old Karakat Abden, a candidate of the National Alliance of Professional Social Workers, is attracting a lot of attention. Abden advocates women's rights and social and demographic policy, working in the presidential administration. She is the most prominent of the three female contestants, next to Fatima Bizakova and Saltanat Tursynbekova. In the past it was Akorda (the presidential palace) that presented a woman for 'gender equality', this time it seems a more credible candidature.

Also causing a stir were statements by the leader of the National Party of Kazakhstan, the pro-Russian Ermukhamet Ertysbaev, on the day of the presentation of Tokaev's candidacy, in which he spoke of 'agents of foreign influence', of 'Russophobia', and of the fact that Russia is fighting with NATO in Ukraine. In reality, the population compactly supports the president's positions of distance from Moscow, but the attempt to create internal tensions during the elections is evident.

The last elections in 2019 were held under Nazarbaev's full control, and this time his 'emancipated dauphin' shows a certain uncertainty due to his past ties to the ruling caste. The anticipation of the election has made it clear that the timeframe to make the turnaround effective is rather tight, and unforeseen collapses or disputes of any kind must be avoided.

However, the attempt to present himself as the only real candidate, with no alternatives equal to the task, could have the opposite effect, awakening the traditional political apathy of the Kazakh people, and provoking an awareness whose consequences are difficult to predict.