KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER COOPTED?

Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 31

Murat Auezov, co-chairman of the leftist opposition group Azamat, has accepted an offer by President Nursultan Nazarbaev to head the Information and Social Concord Department of the Almaty regional administration. To the surprise of local journalists, Auezov nevertheless told a press conference that he would continue to serve as co-chairman of Azamat. (Panorama, February 13)

Last November, Auezov announced his intention to run for president against Nazarbaev in the election scheduled for the year 2000. The son of the late Soviet Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov and a professional sinologist, Murat Auezov joined the opposition partly out of a personal grudge against Nazarbaev. The president had removed Auezov from his post as ambassador to China in 1994. The new post in regional government represents Nazarbaev’s third offer to Auezov since that episode. While obviously less than what Auezov might have expected, the new post may turn out to become a stepping stone to another appointment.

The president’s tactic resembles that used in 1995 to the former head of the Congress of Peoples Party (CPP) Olzhas Suleimenov, who had in 1994 declared that he would run for president in the election scheduled for 1996. However, Suleimenov accepted the post of ambassador to Italy in 1995. He retained his position as chairman of the CPP, but the latter ceased its critical stance.

The same is unlikely to happen to Azamat, however. That latter forms part of the Popular Front Alliance, set up last year together with the Communist party and a group calling itself Workers’ Movement. Auezov, now a potential mediator between government and opposition in the aptly titled Department of Information and Social Concord, has less influence over this broader front. In any case, his appointment resembles a co-optation, underscoring the opposition’s weakness in terms of political influence and popular support.

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