Transition And Succession In Kazakhstan

by © RFE/RL Majlis Podcast, 28.01.2017

Again I joined a discussion with the weekly Majlis Podcast by RFE/RL, this time on the question of how the succession in Kazakhstan might be managed.

Kazakhstan’s main television channels quickly cleared primetime broadcasting space on January 25 when it was suddenly announced that President Nursultan Nazarbaev would speak to the nation on a matter of great importance. Nazarbaev’s surprise announcement turned out to be not so surprising — amendments to the constitution.

He had already brought it up in an Independence Day speech in mid-December, and on January 11 he created a working group from representatives of parliament, the government, the Supreme Council, and other state organizations, headed by presidential chief of staff Adilbek Zhaksybekov, to work out how to transfer some presidential powers to the parliament and the government.

The changes themselves are not very significant but the fact there are changes is important. President Nazarbaev turns 77 on July 6 this year and his speech was about a transition and a reminder the post-Nazarbaev era might not be too much further in the future.

To look at the speech, the reaction of Kazakhstan’s people, and what it might or might not portend for Kazakhstan’s future, RFE/RL assembled a Majlis, a panel, to review what just happened and where these events might be leading the country.

Moderating the discussion was RFE/RL Media Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir. From Kazakhstan, veteran freelance journalist and photographer in Central Asia Edda Schlager joined. Also from Kazakhstan, journalist for the bne website Naubet Bisenov participated. Our friend Dr. Luca Anceschi, lecturer in Central Asian studies at Glasgow University in Scotland, took part. This is a fascinating time in Kazakhstan, so I was happy to jump into the conversation also.

Schlager started by describing January 25. “Social media went quite hot in the afternoon because there was an announcement by the state-led media here in Kazakhstan that there will be this huge announcement by Nazarbaev in the evening,” she recounted.

There was intense speculation about what might be coming. But Schlager said, “This speech was quite short and not so specific as we expected…he told [viewers] there are some changes to the constitution.”

Read the full article and listen to podcast on RFE/RL’s website.