Will there be a "color revolution" in Kazakhstan?


MOSCOW. (Alexei Makarkin for RIA Novosti). -

The lower house of the Kazakh parliament (Majlis) has set the date for the next presidential election, which is to take place on December 4. Elections in the post-Soviet republics of late have tended to coincide with the phenomenon of "color revolutions". For Kazakhstan, however, such a prospect seems unlikely. It is not so much the question of a 9-percent economic growth registered in the first six months of this year (economic growth in Ukraine under the Viktor Yanukovich government was as high) or the charisma of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who, as opposed to, say, Eduard Shevardnadze, has not exhausted his political potential. The main point is that there are no grounds for a revolution in Kazakhstan.

Firstly, the idea of "integrating with the West", which inspired the Ukrainian "Orange Revolution" and the Georgian supporters of Mikhail Saakashvili, is not popular in Kazakhstan because of its geopolitical situation. Therefore it does not have many supporters in Kazakh society.

Secondly, Kazakhstan is not ridden with strife between clans, as was the case in Kyrgyzstan, where the conflict between the northern and southern clans, a vestige of the Soviet era, largely contributed to the downfall of Askar Akayev last spring. The situation in Kazakhstan is radically different because the local elite is much more loyal to the government.

Thirdly, in Kyrgyzstan Akayev had delayed the debates on the future of his regime until the last possible moment - under the Constitution, it was his last term in office. The government, including power agencies, failed to come up with an adequate response to the crisis, since they were lost in reviewing various options, from constitutional amendments to the transition to a parliamentary republic. The situation in Kazakhstan is clear: Nazarbayev, who, as numerous public opinion polls show, is a favorite, will confidently run in the election. Hence, the officialdom will not be inclined to double cross him.

Another important point is that the opposition in Kazakhstan is much weaker than in Kyrgyzstan. It does not have the support of regional clans, and consists mainly of retired officials. The most prominent among them is Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, the leader of the movement "For a Just Kazakhstan," former prosecutor-general and Majlis speaker. Although he is considered to be Nazarbayev's main rival, his current popularity rating is 10%, which is much lower than that of Viktor Yushchenko three months before the elections in Ukraine. The fact that the opposition has been allowed to participate in the elections effectively puts paid to accusations of violating democratic norms made by them against the Kazakh authorities.

Lastly, there are no external forces that would be willing to sponsor a revolution: Nazarbayev is known for his ability to develop relations with all major international players. Partnership with Russia is a top priority for him: it is worth noting that Astana, together with Moscow and Minsk, has consistently supported the Common Economic Space (CES). Russia has also been a reliable partner to Kazakhstan.

Vladimir Putin and Nursultan Nazarbayev are on good terms. Congratulating the Kazakh leader on his 65th birthday last July, Putin said: "Nursultan Nazarbayev has built an independent state from scratch. Only a man of outstanding abilities could achieve this. In retrospect, everything seems easy. But starting from zero and building up to such a level makes it a monumental task with which Nursultan Nazarbayev has coped brilliantly".

At the same time, Nazarbayev steers away from conflict with other major powers - either with China (a Kazakh and Russian partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization) or with the U.S., which does not intend to destabilize the situation in the oil-rich state. Richard Pearl, a Republican notorious for his militant views, visited Kazakhstan in the spring of this year. At the end of the meeting with Nazarbayev, he said that following his talks with the Kazakh leader he became convinced that the country had achieved impressive results in its development. In Pearl's opinion, Kazakhstan plays an important role in the region where sweeping political and economic reforms are underway, and people of various nationalities live in peace and trust one another. He believes that there are threats to stability in the country, such as the danger of extremism and drug trafficking spilling over to Kazakhstan from its poorer neighbors.

The bottom line is: the Nazarbayev administration looks very stable and even potential threats of destabilization cause a negative international reaction. Hence, " a color revolution," in Kazakhstan is highly unlikely.

Alexei Makarkin is deputy general director of the Center for Political Technologies.

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