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Political Analyst: Lukashenka's Diminished Political Standing Shows Itself Among Close Autocrats

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Political Analyst: Lukashenka's Diminished Political Standing Shows Itself Among Close Autocrats
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Humiliation by Tokayev is not accidental.

Political scientist Dimash Alzhanov told Solidarity how Kazakhstan has changed after the protests of January 2022.

– At the CSTO summit held in Minsk on November 23, Tokayev criticized Lukashenka for his calls to resist the West (“Frequent statements on this topic give rise to the illusion that we are afraid of someone... Such statements can also receive and, it seems, are already receiving a completely incorrect interpretation”) .

What do you think explains the words of the President of Kazakhstan?

– Against the backdrop of the rhetoric of Putin and Lukashenka, Tokayev is trying to take the role of a pragmatic and rational politician, inclined to cooperate with Western countries rather than quarrel. It is important for Kazakhstan that Western markets for oil and other resources, including financial instruments, are open. This affects the regime's income and its sustainability.

Close economic relations with Western countries allow the regime to satisfy its needs and remove inconvenient issues regarding human rights and infringement of political freedoms from the agenda of bilateral relations.

– In May, at the II Eurasian Economic Forum, Tokayev spoke about the Union State of Russia and Belarus (“I’m sorry, they even have one nuclear weapon for the two of them now),” and then, in response to Lukashenka’s proposal to join the “union state,” he said: “I appreciated his joke”.

How can you generally characterize Tokayev’s position on integration with Russia, Belarus and other post-Soviet states that are members of the EAEU and CSTO?

– Despite the fact that economic integration within the EAEU has had a negative impact on Kazakhstan, Tokayev is its consistent supporter. This position causes serious concerns and discontent in Kazakhstan.

Therefore, Tokayev will not publicly support statements about a “union state”; they could seriously hit his legitimacy within the country, since after January 2022 many see Tokayev as a person who retained power thanks to Putin and Russian troops within the CSTO.

Tokayev does not have a clear economic policy, so he does not fully understand the problems of the EAEU, and does not have serious ambitions to revise this agreement. As for the CSTO, despite all the ineffectiveness of this organization, it helped him retain power, so he is categorically opposed to leaving it.

Taking into account the unclear prospects for the transition of power at the end of his presidency (in 2022, amendments to the Constitution were adopted in Kazakhstan, according to which the term of office of the head of state was increased to seven years, but the president will not be able to run for a second term — S.), membership in the CSTO has practical significance in its understanding.

– Because of Tokayev’s statements, one gets the impression that he puts himself above Lukashenka, who, after the 2020 presidential elections, is not recognized as a legitimate president in a number of countries and is forced to obey Putin’s demands. Is it so?

– Lukashenka has driven himself and his country into a situation in which Tokayev, with all his loyalty to the Kremlin, would not want to find himself. Increased personal dependence and partial loss of sovereignty by Belarus to Russia will have a negative impact on Lukashenka. This puts him in a weak position, which will also manifest itself at the diplomatic level among close autocrats.

– Recently, a video of Tokayev speaking Kazakh during Putin’s visit to Kazakhstan had a great resonance, forcing the Russian delegation to hastily put on headphones to listen to the translation. What has been happening recently in relations between Kazakhstan and Russia?

– Russia’s influence in Kazakhstan is increasing. Russian companies with ties to the Kremlin are trying to expand their presence in our economy. Kazakhstan provides Russia with its jurisdiction and financial system to circumvent sanctions.

The importance of Kazakhstan has increased for Putin, and he is successfully pushing through his initiatives in the economy, military and cultural cooperation, using the favor and partly dependence of Tokayev.

In this whole story with the Kazakh language during negotiations, journalists, it seems to me, are missing something important, not focusing on the most essential details.

This speech in the Kazakh language was intended to soften the agreement with Russia in the information space, according to which Russian schools would be opened in Kazakhstan together with Russia, the construction of power plants and gasification of the northern regions of the country would begin.

– How can you describe the position of the Kazakh authorities regarding Russia’s war against Ukraine? And who do ordinary citizens support?

– According to recent polls, the majority in our country is against the war and Russia’s actions. However, the position of the Kazakh authorities is different.

Tokayev is helping Putin circumvent sanctions and obtain dual-use goods for the military industry. He sees the Kremlin as a partner that can ensure the survival of his regime. You shouldn't expect anything different here.

– How has Kazakhstan changed after the January 2022 protests and the November 2022 presidential elections – politically and economically?

– The political situation has deteriorated significantly. The regime was threatened with loss of power and began targeted repressions. After January 2022, almost all leaders of unregistered opposition parties and prominent activists received prison sentences. A number of laws have been tightened, and the space for the activities of media and bloggers has been narrowed.

What is happening in Kazakhstan is not democratization, but autocratization.

– What is Nazarbayev’s situation today?

– He is under guarantees sealed by Putin. Some of his relatives and associates, lacking political patronage, lost their assets. The redistribution of property in general will be a priority part of Tokayev's presidency.

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