QR Briefing: Week of 1/16/23
Author: Richard Spooner
Jan 18, 2023
CPC's new feature QR Briefing is a summary and analysis of events and trends in the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK). With the decision to switch Kazakh language to a Latinized alphabet, which will be implemented in stages from 2023-2031, the country's name is now being rendered as Qazakstan, and Qazak Republic (QR) is gaining momentum, especially among young people, as a new acronym for the country, replacing RK, to resonate with President Tokayev's rebranding of the country as Jana (new) Qazakstan.
President Tokayev Concludes Visit to the United Arab Emirates
During Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s official state visit January 16-18 he met with his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at the Al-Watan Palace, where he was greeted with a 21-gun salute. The two presidents reached agreement on strengthening of cooperation in trade and investment, issuing a joint declaration on strategic investment projects that they believe will give a powerful impetus to the bilateral partnership.
While in Abu Dhabi, members of President Tokayev’s delegation signed a number of agreements with UAE companies.
NOC KazMunaiGas and Abu Dhabi Ports Group entered into a partnership to further develop Kazakhstan’s fleet and coastal infrastructure in the Caspian and the Black Seas. The objective is to diversify and increase the supply of Kazakhstani crude oil to world markets by creating a fleet of shallow water vessels to service offshore Caspian oilfields, as well as a tanker fleet for exports from the port of Aktau in Kazakhstan to Baku in Azerbaijan and then on to markets in Europe and Türkiye. Thus, we see more evidence of the Trans-Caspian international transit route (TITR) taking hold.
In the financial sector, First Abu Dhabi Bank has plans to invest in Kazakhstan. This was announced following a meeting between President Tokayev and a senior representative of the ruling family, one of the UAE’s most powerful businessmen, Suroor bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the chief shareholder in First Abu Dhabi.
Finally, Tokayev met in Abu Dhabi with Mohammed Al-Ramahi, the CEO of Masdar Clean Energy, a subsidiary of UAE conglomerate Mubadala Development Company. Tokayev noted that Kazakhstan has set a goal to achieve hydrocarbon neutrality by 2060 and increase the share of renewable energy in the economy from 4% to 15% by 2030. Masdar plans to participate in a joint project to construct wind farm power plants in the Turkestan and Zhambyl regions of southern Kazakhstan.
The President concluded his visit by taking part in the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Development Summit, whose stated aim was to set an agenda for and give proper impetus to the 28th UN Climate Change Conference COP 28 UAE, scheduled to take place at Expo City Dubai from November 30 – December 12, 2023.
Kazakhstan Tightens Rules for EAEU Visitors
In a move that bears directly on the current and any future influx of citizens from the Russian Federation fleeing mobilization into the armed forces for service in the war against Ukraine, a decree of the government of Kazakhstan that will take effect January 27, amends rules for the entry and stay of citizens from countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Foreigners who do not need a visa to enter Kazakhstan, a category which includes EAEU citizens, will be able to stay in the country for 30 days, but over the ensuing 180-day period, the total length of their time spent in Kazakhstan may not exceed 90 days. In other words, it will no longer be possible for them to leave the country each 30 days and then return, as soon as the following day, over and over without limit.
Senate and Majilis Repeal Nazarbayev’s Elbasy Status
The Senate and Majilis, Kazakhstan’s upper and lower legislative chambers, formally repealed a law that gave former President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev official status as Elbasy, or ‘leader of the nation,’ along with other privileges for himself and his family.
This act was the culmination of a process that began following last year’s January Events, when protests across the country over a spike in fuel prices took a violent turn in Almaty, with blame for the violence was tied to close associates and relatives of the former president. In May, 2022, President Tokayev initiated a national referendum on amendments to the Constitution, including repeal of the above-mentioned law adopted more than twenty-two years ago on July 20, 2000.
Following the referendum, Kazakhstan’s constitutional court, the country’s highest judicial authority, rendered a decision last July declaring the law invalid, and the law was officially repealed on January 13. In presenting the bill to repeal, Majilis member Yerlan Sairov of the Jana Kazakhstan (‘new Kazakhstan’) group stated: “In a period of deep political transformation, when Kazakhstan is moving towards democracy and pluralism, it is important to prevent mechanisms that lead to the expropriation of power by individual groups. Therefore, our group of deputies has presented this bill, taking into account the demands of the overwhelming majority of the population.” He added that attempts to create a monopoly over political institutions undermine social values in the country and have a negative impact on the development of the state. “Therefore, it is extremely important for the future to form a socio-political immunity to such lapses and loopholes! This step is both a political and legal act aimed at ensuring strict observance of the norms of constitutional law and protecting political institutions.”
Minister of Justice Azamat Yeskarayev explained following the repeal that while the former President will retain immunity from criminal prosecution, his family members and organizations associated with him, like the Nazarbayev Foundation, will not. Thus, repeal of the law means that his relatives could be targets for investigation and possible indictment going forward, and Minister Yeskarbayev specifically stated that their bank accounts and property are no longer protected from confiscation.