søndag 9. januar 2022

Cold War-style power grab plays out with deadly consequences on the streets of Kazakhstan

The politics of Kazakhstan are notoriously opaque and bureaucratic, but in the past few days President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has shed his image as a compliant, colorless placeholder. With a little help from Moscow, Tokayev has ruthlessly turned the tables on his mentor, Nursultan Nazarbaev, the man who ruled Kazakhstan from independence in 1991 to 2019 and was still known as Leader of the Nation, until Wednesday.

Analysts say Kazakhstan has now entered a period of treacherous transition -- but Tokayev has emerged victorious in round one. As the city of Almaty echoed to the sound of gunfire on January 5, Tokayev abandoned the moderate tone he'd used when the protests began, and launched -- in effect -- a palace coup.

His swift action was all the more surprising because Tokayev was widely seen as an urbane technocrat still beholden to Nazarbaev, who hand-picked him as his successor in 2019. Kate Mallinson, central Asia analyst with the London-based political risk group Prism, said the swift move against Nazarbaev allies "came as a shock. In Kazakhstan everything is bureaucracy -- but not this time."