THE POLITICAL REGIME IN KAZAKHSTAN: ITS CURRENT STATE AND POSSIBLE FUTURE
Stanislav Shkel, Ph.D. (Political Science), associate professor at the Political Science, Sociology and Public Relations Chair, Ufa State Petroleum Technical University (Ufa, Russia)
Political science defines “political regime” in a variety of ways, yet only two of the definitions are commonly accepted. One of them relies on the political and legal, or institutional, approach, while the other is based on sociology. However they agree when it comes to an understanding of the diverse relations between the government and society.
Those wishing to define any specific political regime should proceed from its institutional design and corresponding political practice (observance of constitutional norms, freedoms and rights); the degree of public involvement in decision-making at the state level; the degree and possibility of competition between the government and the opposition; and the role of open coercion and enforcement in state governance.
The majority of Russian political scientists, studying the transformations in the post-Soviet expanse, concentrate on political actors and institutions and the mode of their interaction responsible for the structure of power relations.
V. Ghelman, for example, who identifies actors, institutions, resources, and strategies as the main independent variables, has described a political regime as the “sum-total of actors involved in a political process, institutions of political power, and the resources and strategies used to gain and retain power.”
R. Turovskiy seems to agree with the above. He describes a political regime as the “sum-total of political actors (including their methods of governance, resources, aims and strategies) and institutions (interpreted both as organizations and the norms and rules of the game) operating on a certain territory.”
The subjects of social action—various elite groups with resources and strategies of their own—can be described as actors. Resources are an attribute (a circumstance or a boon), the possession of which makes it easier to influence society. Strategies are the nature of actions some actors undertake in relation to others (force, compromise, or a combination of the two). Institutions are the sum-total of formal and informal “rules of the game” which impose limitations on the political actors or create incentives to political action.
This definition contains the concept of dominating actor used to describe a subject (a strong leader, a ruling party, or the ruling clan, etc.) able to rule beyond any meaningful cooperation with others.
The concepts of formal and informal “actor” and “institution” suffice to describe any political regime as a functional sphere of a political system which, in turn, can be described as a method of cooperation within the formal and informal institutions of the sum-total of actors in the political process who rely on various resources and strategies to gain and retain power.
V. Ghelman has pointed out that the formal description of the political regime created for the purposes of analysis of regime changes allows one to draw a line between competitive and uncompetitive regimes. In the latter case, the dominating actor is all-important, while the others have no significant roles to play.
Before analyzing the political regime in Kazakhstan, it should be noted that by 1995 the country acquired objective conditions conducive to stronger presidential power. This power was represented by Nazarbaev, who had acquired far greater political resources than his opponents.
Electoral support, which the president used to strengthen his legitimacy and improve the referendum strategy, can be described as one such resource. His unrivalled authority, likewise, was another important factor. It had been earned much earlier, during the last years of Soviet power when Nursultan Nazarbaev, a flexible politician, demonstrated his no mean talent for compromises with various social groups and his ability to formulate balanced centrist positions and earn popular support. According to the all-Union poll the Dialog journal conducted in 1991, 40 percent of the respondents pointed to Nazarbaev as the “politician of the year” (36 percent selected Boris Yeltsin as the “man of.....................