Ex-PM says Kazakh leader must act fast to neutralise Nazarbayev faction

A man walks past the office building of the ruling Nur Otan party, which was damaged during mass protests sparked by rising fuel prices, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 8, 2022. REUTERS / Pavel Mikheyev / File Photo

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  • Former prime minister says many see president as being manipulated by his predecessor
  • Rapid investigation needed after a week of violence
  • Security service purge in progress

LONDON, Jan. 9 (Reuters) – The Kazakh president must act quickly to consolidate his grip after breaking with his powerful predecessor as the country was rocked last week by the deadliest violence in its 30 years of independence from vis-à-vis Moscow, a former prime minister said on Sunday. .

As protesters torched buildings in the largest city of Almaty last Wednesday, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ousted former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev as head of the powerful Security Council – a role in which Nazarbayev, 81, , had continued to pull the strings despite the handing over of the presidency in 2019.

With 164 people killed and more than 6,000 detained in what Tokayev called a counterterrorism operation, a purge of the security apparatus is now underway in the oil and oil-producing Central Asian state. uranium. Read more

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Former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin told Reuters that Tokayev, who has ruled since 2019 in the shadow of the man who has dominated the country for the previous three decades, must dispel doubts about who was really in charge.

“I think a lot of people in social media, the critics, keep saying he’s a candidate for Nazarbayev, that Nazarbayev is standing behind his back and manipulating him,” he said.

“Now that he has full formal executive power, the question is how he is going to deploy it. He has to take command.”

Kazhegeldin was prime minister under Nazarbayev in the 1990s, when Tokayev was foreign minister, but resigned due to corruption concerns and now lives in exile in Britain.

He urged Tokayev to investigate quickly, bring those responsible for the violence to justice and listen to the demands for reform from the population.

“If he does it in a short period of time, he can count on the support of the citizens in the election. If he doesn’t, people will blame all the problems and everything that has happened recently on him.”

Nazarbayev, a former Communist Party boss, amassed substantial wealth during his decades at the helm, wielding power through what Kazhegeldin has described as a clan system.

He said the “embittered” faction of Nazarbayev would try to re-mobilize if given the chance.

“The people who have just been defeated are very rich. They have enormous capital abroad, including in Britain,” he said.

“This money must be returned to the country and used to develop the economy. If this is not done, these people will use the money to destabilize the situation in the country.”

Nazarbayev could not be reached for comment, but his spokesperson released a statement on Sunday in an apparent attempt to quell the impression of a rift between him and Tokayev.

He said the former president had chosen to cede his post on the security council in Tokayev to help ease the crisis, and that the two men had always been “on the same side of the barricades”. Read more

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Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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