Kassenova: Kazakh authorities have purged the domestic political life so thoroughly that they're confused how to proceed

PONARS Eurasia
26 Feb 2020

(Al Jazeera) Leaders and would-be delegates of the founding congress of an opposition party have been arrested in Kazakhstan ahead of next year's parliamentary elections, raising concerns about democratic participation in the Central Asian nation.

The crackdown started last week with a reported arson and the arrest of three activists who were heading to the largest city - Almaty - for Saturday's congress of the nascent Democratic Party of Kazakhstan (DPK) led by former journalist Zhanbolat Mamai. [...]

Nargis Kassenova, a Kazakh scholar and senior fellow in the Central Asia programme at Harvard University's Davis Center, told Al Jazeera that, on the one hand, the government seems to understand there is a need for "a certain reformatting of the political scene" but on the other, "the uncertainty of consequences is scary".

"The authorities have been risk-averse for so long and purged the domestic political life so thoroughly, that now they probably find themselves confused how to proceed," she said.

Kassenova also said "it doesn't help" that there are two presidents in the country, referring to the fact that Nazarbayev remains in charge. The former president continues to head the governing party and remains chairman for life of the powerful Security Council.

"This duumvirate is disorienting and conducive to power struggles and negotiations inside the government," she said.

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