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Every post-Soviet country has its own Rahat Aliyevs - would-be «opposition» activists currently close to national leaders

13.03.2008 13:45 msk

Oleg Panfilov

Analytics Kazakhstan

Every post-Soviet country has its own Rahat Aliyevs - would-be «opposition» activists currently close to national leaders

Rahat Aliyev's open letter released the other day is a comprehensive list of despicable economic crimes committed by his erstwhile father-in-law President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. The letter is quite thorough, giving chapter and verse on facts, figures, and names.

Reading letters of this kind, one cannot help wondering exactly when the author discovered it all. When and how did Aliyev come by this knowledge? Long ago? Why did he keep it close to his chest then? Not long ago? What are his sources and how trustworthy are they?

In this particular case, the letter was drawn by Nazarbayev's former relative, ex-husband of his eldest daughter. Volumes have been written about Nazarbayev and about the so called Kazakh-Gate, mostly by the people who were privy to all this information from the very beginning but played mum's the word while they themselves were close to the president in the capacities of ministers, deputy premiers, governors, or in-laws. In other words, they kept their mouths shut enjoying all benefits and privileges of "being inside" (privileges from posh autos to contacts in positions of power to plain influence, that is) but went public frothing in indignation as soon as the benefits and privileges were withdrawn.

Political distortions are quite frequent in post-Soviet countries, particularly in the ones where ruling parties take after the late CPSU - established on orders, with a substantial budget, and with the Old Guard of the nomenclature to assume positions of power. The Russian Federation has United Russia, Kazakhstan has Nur Otan. Uzbekistan has its People's Democratic Party, Tajikistan has a namesake party, and Turkmenistan has Democratic Party. These minor variations in names notwithstanding, all of them are communist parties of the Soviet Republics from the structural angle.

On the other hand, there are striking similarities in how parties of the opposition are established in all these countries. They are usually headed by staunch adversaries of their respective regimes, the men who enjoyed closeness to presidents only recently (ministers, premiers, and even relatives). Ar-Namys in Kazakhstan and the Republican People's Party in Kazakhstan are vivid examples.

Other parties of the opposition, ones established by enthusiasts, are essentially helpless. They never make national parliaments or end up with but a token representation there and therefore wield no clout at all in decision-making or in actual adoption of laws.

Let's get back to relatives. Did Aliyev know that the president was misbehaving? It certainly seems that he did. Or at least, guessed. Did Aliyev himself participate? I dare anyone to persuade me that he did not. He couldn't have known what he knows otherwise

Aliyev is not particularly unique. Every post-Soviet country has its own Rahat Aliyevs - relatives of their respective presidents or at least people from the so called "right-hand man" category (like Boris Shihmuradov in Turkmenistan and Felix Kulov in Kyrgyzstan). Some post-Soviet countries have more of them than Kazakhstan does. Sooner or later, all these people end up in the opposition. They establish political parties, mobilize electorates, and aspire for a return to the corridors of power. Voters, either hating the regimes or at least believing that they are entitled to more than the regimes have been providing, usually follow the new opposition leaders.

As a result, political life becomes distorted. Opposition leaders want to topple the regimes but never suggest any reforms at all - political, economic, or ideological. The voters who distrust opposition of this kind are fond of saying that politics in general as a dirty business. It is dirty indeed, but it was not politicians who made it dirty. It was post-Soviet opposition activists.

A new generation of politicians, generation of professional politicians, is the ticket. These politicians should be properly educated and experienced, they should be capable of suggesting reforms and, also importantly, methods of their implementation.

As things stand, however, all we've been witnessing is activeness of former relatives and allies who view politics as a means of vengeance for being no longer in the corridors of power (or in the family which is essentially one and the same thing).

Oleg Panfilov - Head of the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. Oazis, March 12, 2008. © Translated by Ferghana.Ru