The return of Bidzina Ivanishvili to politics as the official leader of the Georgian Dream Coalition provides another example of unfolding uncertainty in the Caucasian country. As with the governments preceding it, the GD are teetering on the verge of de facto collapse – exacerbated by its failure to deliver on its most basic promise: improved economic performance. Unfortunately, there is little to suggest that once promising Georgia will embark on the gamut of reforms needed to truly make it a transparent democracy, and a welcome environment for foreign investors.
Plans for the creation of an Islamic finance infrastructure represent the latest expression of commitment by the Mirziyoyev administration to reform Uzbekistan’s notoriously opaque banking sector. Nevertheless, Islamic banking in the country remains vulnerable to co-option by national elites.
Putin’s unsurprising victory in last month’s Presidential election, launching his 4th term in office, designates the onset of a new phase of Russian politics. Having already realized his foremost intention - that of reasserting authority of the autocratic state, Putin is now faced with crafting an escape plan whilst avoiding economic crisis, or a damaging succession battle among the elite.
In 2018, Putin is expected to be re-elected for his 4th presidential term. He will do so against the background of eroding institutions and underhand elite infighting. The transition of power in 2018 and the changes in the ruling elite will happen in the context of slowing economic growth and depleting financial reserves, weak institutions, negative foreign policy inertia, and a risk of social tensions.
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While there is little intrigue about the outcome of 2018 presidential elections in Russia, there is less certainty about what will come after the 2024 transition of power. What is the importance of Putin’s 4th presidential term? Which elite structures stand to gain or to lose over the next 6 years? What are the likely successor scenarios? The answers to these questions – answered during Shadow Governance Intel’s first webinar on 14 December - will define Russia’s stability for the years to come.
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.
Previously not regarded as problems for Kazakhstan, trade unionism and religious fundamentalism are emerging as potential threats to social and political stability. Incidents of industrial action and terrorist attacks in the West are ostensibly a precursor of the destabilisation predicted should any future transfer of power away from Nazarbayev prove to be chaotic.
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.
Uzbekistan is on a path that is seeking to diverge from its past. It is shifting away from Russia and towards China; and, it is looking to introduce market transparency, initially through a concerted anti-corruption programme. Although the two policies can be viewed as progressive, they may not be able to co-exist over the long term.
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Although Moscow is keen to maintain some degree of influence over Kazakhstan, there are strong indications that Astana is repositioning its foreign policy focus. A careful balancing between East and West has been replaced by a marked shift towards anti-Russian defiance – seen in alternative foreign ties, internal social and cultural policies, and reshuffles of the political elite.
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.
With the 2018 presidential elections looming and the electoral campaign about to start, Russia’s political elite find themselves in disarray. The rumblings inside the Kremlin have it that the position of prime minister might soon become vacant – but who are the front runners, and what do they bring to the party?
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