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Shadow Governance Intel will be hosting a free webinar on 14th December looking at the 2018 presidential elections and the prospects for a post-Putin Russia. The session will look at the political and commercial Power Players and elite groups in Russia that stand to gain and/or lose from this emerging uncertainty; culminating in an outlook that will identify which personalities are set to rise in a post-Putin era, and most importantly what this means for organisations operating or looking to operate in Russia.
Although only 65 years old, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon is looking towards succession. His son, now Mayor of Dushanbe, has emerged as the heir apparent; but, that is not to say that other family members are vying for influence. There are three main power bases in the country, each tied to one of Rahmon’s children. Whether these three power bases can find a balance will dictate the stability of Tajikistan.
Although nepotism, like corruption, has been a fixture of the Kazakh elite, there are no obvious presidential candidates in the Nazarbayev family itself. Succession plans, as such, have been turning into an art of guesswork, as Nazarbayev is guarding discussions from public consumption. Although the family has its own candidates, the future of Kazakhstan’s political leadership may well fall to individuals who are a degree, if not two, removed from the family.
Tajikistan’s kleptocratic system is characterised by government critics as one in which the ruling elite would rather have 100% of a $1 million pie, rather than 10% of a $100 million pie. This sentiment highlights the risks associated with doing business in a country where business and politics truly are inseparable.
Reforms have brought a degree of transparency to Ukraine’s political system. A legacy of oligarch interference over political institutions, however, is not so easily disrupted; evident in media revelations that President Poroshenko has prioritised the security and growth of his business interests over the promises he made to the electorate. As Ukraine’s future balances between progress and regression, will the balance tilt towards further reform, or will the road towards a new oligarch class and influence be opened?
Although the life expectancy of Kazakh opposition parties is usually brief, rising social discontent is changing the equation. Disaffection with political governance is no longer limited to the grassroots, but increasingly resounding within the middle and business classes, and within elements of the ruling elite itself. This is feeding a resurgent opposition; but will change be orderly or chaotic.
Increased affiliation to the Russian Orthodox Church has proved to be a trend among Russia’s elite groups during Putin’s third presidential term. Both the church and elite groups benefit from their mutual allegiance. While power players finance Church operations, the Church provides ideological backing to the Kremlin and a positive public image for business elite.
VTB’s involvement in the Mozambique debt scandal attracted attention to the bank’s operations in Africa and other foreign countries. The bank is closely connected to Russia’s most powerful elite groups who frequently use it to solve politically-sensitive problems. VTB’s foreign activity should be closely monitored vis-à-vis the Kremlin’s attempts to use it to informally promote its foreign policy goals.
Institutional and systemic lapses continue to undermine Georgia’s investment environment. Using the fertilizer sector as a case study, this analysis highlights how sustained interference of politically connected informal business networks in key enterprises has prevented modernisation, and further contributed to deepening a negative image of the country’s wider business and investment climate.
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Behind the scenes, Kazakhstan’s political and business clans have always bickered; but the era of high economic growth that largely insulated the regime from elite discontent is now over, and the rivalry between various factions has begun to surface in public. As Nazarbayev seeks to balance the two main elite groups, a third has risen and is raising questions.
Although a lesser discussed set of bilateral relations, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates are sending signals of enhanced cooperation. Given the UAE’s desire to expand and diversify its economy, established investors should keep one eye on the effects that emerging bilateral agreements may have on their interests.
Russia’s banking sector is undergoing the largest reshuffle in decades. The result is that over 50% of banking assets are controlled by a handful of large state- and private-owned entities, through which informal networks leverage their influence. Details of the power dynamics and influence power players wield over Russia’s banks are provided in the Report Store.