Components of the success of «Nur Otan» is a new paradigm of political leadership
NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM - The year of the 30th anniversary of Independence of Kazakhstan for the leading political party of the country «Nur Otan» turned out to be eventful, immediately beginning with the elections to the Majilis and Maslikhats. In July, direct elections for rural akims were held in the Republic of Kazakhstan for the first time. Both electoral campaigns ended in victory for Nur Otan, Kazinform reports.
On the eve of the meeting of the Party's Political Council, we talk with political scientist Eduard Poletaev.
The coronavirus pandemic that broke out last year caused serious changes around the world, including in Kazakhstan. The crisis affected not only the social, but also the political sphere. What did the parties go through?
Serious changes are taking place in Kazakhstan today. The pandemic, with its «long distance» consequences and delayed effect turned out to be so powerful that it did not only «zeroed out», but also forced a complete revision of the political agenda. The massive demand of the electorate required an adequate response from the state, political system and parties. The demands implied political and economic reforms and modernization.
The content of the changes depended on meaningful actions and systemic measures. Kazakhstan is a young country with still emerging democratic institutions. Our modern history is only 30 years old! And, of course, the state, society and government could not become hostages of the uncontrollable course of events, chaos and unpredictability of democracy, which had slipped to the level of ochlocracy. We have witnessed these processes in the world. And the authorities, even out of a sense of their own self-preservation, had no political right to make a mistake. The parties had only one choice - reliance on society. And society wanted changes, new leaders and ideas, honest discussions, pragmatists and realists in power, clear and understandable plans, real deeds, meaningfulness and responsibility in work. This required a lot of work, primarily at the party level.
What exactly did this imply? A complete reboot of the party`s political system, a change in its qualitative and quantitative composition, the formation and implementation of a different moral and ethical atmosphere, a completely new level of social capital in the country and society. Together, this has become one of the main trajectories of political transit in Kazakhstan, a new paradigm for the development of parties.
The key changes had to be ensured by Nur Otan, as the ruling party. Kazakhstan is becoming a country where elections will be held permanently, the importance of representative bodies is growing. In the new reality a real party competition is needed. During the electoral campaign preceding the elections to the Majilis and Maslikhats of all levels, we observed the activation of almost all parties. At the same time, in all these electoral campaigns, the Nur Otan party was the clear favorite, which confirmed the right to be called the ruling party.
Of course, one can ask the question «are there democracies in which the ruling party receives almost 2/3 of the votes and has been ruling for more than 20 years?» But there is theory and practice. In reality - Nur Otan has the majority of seats in Parliament. Today, the Cabinet of Ministers is beginning to acquire a pronounced party nature, because «Nur Otan» is forming the Government. State policy and national projects are entirely based on the electoral program of the ruling party, which takes responsibility for everything that happens in the country. At the same time, responsibility manifests itself not only in mutually approved positions, but also in discussion, harsh criticism on important areas of development, in monitoring the implementation of the election program created by 14 republican public councils. And this is normal, after all, this is the only way to develop an agreed position. In other words, the ruling party and the Government are on the same wave, controlling each other, they equally share responsibility.
But, anyway, Nur Otan has been ruling for too long, don't you think?
And what's wrong with that? There is the experience of Singapore, the CDU / CSU bloc in Germany or Japan, where the Liberal Democratic Party dominated and formed the Government for almost 45 years. All these countries are in the economic and political hierarchy of development and ratings. So, Kazakhstan is not the first to follow this path.
What formed the basis of the main components of the success of the Nur Otan party?
The success of the ruling party was a logical consequence of the large-scale reboot of the party. Systematic «reboot» program «Trust. Dialogue. Confidence in the future - 7 impulses of the party» was initiated by Elbasy, the Leader of the «Nur Otan» party, Nursultan Nazarbayev in August 2019.
Elbasy determined 7 priority areas. To retain political leadership, the party had to plunge into the problems of the population and propose concrete ways to solve them. It was required to maximize the potential of the party bodies at all levels, to consolidate and increase the responsibility of active Nur Otan members, to strengthen the fight against corruption and to purge the ranks.
Did the party establishment have any fears about the success of the plan? I think yes. Fearlessness in politics is political suicide. And fear is a protective function of any organism. Moreover, considering that the implementation of the «reboot« took place in extremely difficult conditions.
So, 2019 became the year of the beginning of the political transition of presidential power for the country, when Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned his powers as President and elections of a new Head of State were held in June. It was a year of economic, social and geopolitical turbulence. The protests, events in Arys and Kordai became a serious test for the authorities. The ruling class suffered from image losses. The country had to balance between interests, trade disputes and the sanctions confrontation of such global players as China, Russia, the US, and the European Union. To all this, the coronavirus was added with all the ensuing consequences.
Under these conditions, «Nur Otan« set a course for a qualitative renewal of the ranks. A large-scale «cleanup of rows« was launched. The party expelled almost 360 thousand people from its ranks! There were no untouchables. Vice-ministers, deputies of the Parliament, deputy governors of regions, akims and deputy akims of cities were punished. The people of Nur Otan began to bear tough responsibility for non-implementation of the party's programs, corruption scandals, and inappropriate behavior. Only for corruption and criminal offenses, 227 people have already lost their membership cards.
The core of the «reboot« was the primaries. Conducted for the first time on the principle «Strong Leaders - Strong Party», it became the organizational backbone and a qualitative skeleton of the Nur Otan party «reboot» process. The significance and value of this process was given by the fact that the upcoming elections were held entirely according to the proportional system. The party primaries had everything - new faces, competition of ideas and programs, and even an electronic platform for voting. And all this happened in the context of a pandemic, a lockdown, working online, a catastrophic drop in the level of people's incomes.
What should the ruling parties do in such conditions? Show social responsibility. Many businessmen of the country responded to the call of the First President of the country - Elbasy, the Leader of «Nur Otan« Nursultan Nazarbayev to help the needy categories of citizens. The charity action «BizBirgemiz« (»We are together«) covered 2.2 million Kazakhstanis with the provision of financial assistance for 34 billion tenge. 320 thousand families received targeted financial aid.
But did all this increase the confidence in the party?
I think the statistics are more than eloquent - 42 thousand new party members, 10 thousand candidates for the primaries, including 40% - women and 30% - youth. As a result, there is a high-quality party list in the Majilis and Maslikhats of all levels. Of the 77 winners of the primaries included in the party list of candidates for deputies of the Majilis, 36 received a deputy mandate. Among them are opinion leaders, activists, industry experts.
The progressiveness of the primaries in Kazakhstan was assessed not only by domestic experts and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, but also in the homeland of the primaries - in the United States. Thus, the newspaper «The Washington Times« noted that the reforms initiated by the party are part of a new political culture emerging in Kazakhstan ( https://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/jun/23/kazakhstan-strengthens-democracy- with-civic-engage / ).
In Chinese political culture, there is the concept of a «heavenly mandate« used as a source of legitimation for the ruling regime. This is when the government acquired the right to rule further, if it withstood the tests of drought, floods, disease, war, etc. So the «reboot» allowed Nur Otan to adapt to reality and get, figuratively speaking, such a «heavenly mandate».
Why the party received this «Heavenly Mandate«? What caused this trust?
Focus on the interests of specific strata, taking into account the needs and potential of the regions. This became the main difference between the first developed 216 regional roadmaps and the electoral program «Path of Change: A Decent Life for Everyone!«, announced by President of the country Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. This became the guarantee of the competitive advantage of Nur Otan among other participants in the election race and victory in the elections to the Majilis with 71% of the vote and 82.4% in Maslikhats of all levels. And later Nur Otan confirmed its leadership as the ruling party by winning in direct elections of heads of rural settlements, where ruling party won in 605 rural districts out of 789.
I would like to note that the direct elections of rural akims initiated by the Head of State gave impetus to the work of parties with the local population. For the first time in the history of the country, members of such parties as «Ak Zhol«, People's Party of Kazakhstan, «Auyl«, «Adal« and NSDP became akims. The non-parliamentary parties «Auyl« and «Adal« demonstrated a fairly high level of adaptability, nominating 100 and 56 candidates, respectively. And in 29 rural districts, the villagers elected the representatives of «Auyl« party as akims, and in 15 - members from «Adal«. This is a vivid evidence of a real breakthrough in the issue of liberalization of the party-political system of Kazakhstan.
Did the non-systemic opposition have an opportunity to take part in the elections?
Yes, it did, considering the institution of self-nomination. Another question, did they want to? Parties that do not even try to fight for power, engaging only in criticism, should not be offended by the fact that, for various reasons, they do not have political subjectivity. What prevented KDP or El Tiregi from nominating their candidates? The answer, most likely, lies in their insolvency and lack of support in the countryside. Instead of systematically fighting for power, building a structure from the very bottom, they are organizing incomprehensible rallies, not offering anything constructive at them. As a result, they lose potential voters who simply do not see the benefits of these associations.
This is the era of hyperrealism, when the population enters into a social contract with political parties in the field of politics, economics, and modernization. Kazakhstani parties and society passed this exam with dignity. The strength of the ruling Nur Otan party was that its voter was different, and the program case was more convincing.
So, the quality of the party ranks and consistency in work, openness, reliance on society and focus on the strata and demands of voters, adaptation and the ability to struggle for power in the harsh conditions of political transit, as pandemic crisis and party competition - this is the list of components of the success of the ruling party that Nur Otan achieved through a «reboot«. And, of course, the responsibility I have already spoken about in the context of the new paradigm of political leadership of the ruling party.