25 ноября 2022
Paolo Sorbello, photo from Akorda.kz

The Week in Kazakhstan: Most for One, Some Against All

Tokayev achieves a landslide victory, Nazarbayev calls Massimov “Judas”

The Week in Kazakhstan: Most for One, Some Against All

Around 6.5 million Kazakhstanis voted for Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, allowing the incumbent president to win 81% of the votes in the early elections of November 20. Other candidates received fewer than 3.5% of the consensus, highlighting the weakness of Tokayev's adversaries.

Importantly, 5.8% of the votes went to “Against All,” an unusual option that the government added to the ballot. In line with the two most recent voting turnouts, overall participation failed to reach 70%.

Independent observers noted a series of voting irregularities and interferences. The OSCE-ODIHR mission published a note highlighting “a lack of pluralism” and procedural issues “undermining transparency.” A few dozen activists who took to the streets to protest were arrested.

Former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, soon after casting his vote, answered a question by our correspondent saying that he wishes to know the results of the trial against Karim Massimov, the former security chief, who is accused of high treason. “For many years, Massimov worked with me. Judas was also sitting next to Jesus Christ, and did he know about him?,” Nazarbayev said.

Another loyalist of Nazarbayev’s and former prime minister, Imangali Tasmagambetov, was named general secretary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a three-year position that will start in January 2023. The CSTO, a military alliance between Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan features a rotating secretariat. In January 2022, the CSTO sent 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan to help secure strategic assets during Qandy Qantar.

Through data disclosed by the State Budget Committee, ProTenge, an investigative outlet on financial transparency, pieced together a complex series of deals linked to Dariga Nazarbayeva, the former president’s eldest daughter. In 2009, Nurbank, then-linked to Nazarbayeva, loaned 9.5 billion tenge (around$80 million at the time) to a local company that ultimately transferred this sum to another company registered in the BVI. Years later, Eurasia (a state-owned TV channel), which had become the ultimate lender, forgave the loan, essentially causing a loss to the state budget.

On November 23, Minister of Economy Alibek Kuantyrov said the “monitoring freeze” on small and medium enterprises will be extended until the end of 2023. The measure, aimed to “improve the conditions for the development of small businesses, including micro-enterprises”, was adopted in December 2019.

On the same day, large businesses experienced a strike and a strong reprimand from the government.

Around 200 workers in a Kazphosphate plant in the southern Zhambyl region went on strike, demanding higher wages.

After a blitz investigation of the case of the six miners that died in a mining accident at the beginning of the month, Minister of Emergency Situations Yuri Ilyn said that ArcelorMittal Temirtau, the operator of the mine, was to blame for the accident: “The government commission determined that the fault of the employees in this case was 0%, whereas the fault of the employer was 100%.”

The Atameken business association published an analysis that shows that in the first half of the year inflation has grown at twice the rate of salary increases. In the first six months of 2022, prices have grown by 18.7%, while salaries have only increased by 8.9%, according to official data.

The price of diesel fuel has increased by 9.7% since the beginning of the year, especially in the western and northern regions of the country. In the southern city of Shymkent, the government accused two companies of manipulating the supply of diesel fuel in an effort to drive up the price. In August, the Energy Ministry said it would allow diesel prices to grow because most of the demand is from transiting foreign trucks that have exploited the low Kazakhstani prices.

On November 22, Interfax, a Russian news agency, wrote that Kazmunaigas shares could be also traded in the St. Petersburg stock exchange. Soon after, representatives of the national company and of Samruk-Kazyna, the holding that owns it, said that this was not in their plans and that Kazakhstani citizens and residents of the country will have a priority in buying shares in the local stock exchanges when trading opens on December 8. In its quarterly report, Kazmunaigas said its net profit in the first three quarters of 2022 increased by 15.9%.