As Ukraine enters the penultimate year of Poroshenko’s presidency, it teeters on the brink of revolutionary failure. Despite Western assistance and policy advice, the influence of the country’s oligarchs and associated systemic corruption has yet to be dislodged. A lack of political will is placing pressure on Ukraine, with indications that civil society and a coalition of populists may potentially shift the balance.
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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.
A draft proposal for a new Investment Code was released earlier this month in Uzbekistan. Devised to bring legislation on investment relations under one umbrella, and introduce market transparency, the draft code shows promise. Even if passed into law before 2018, implementation will be a struggle. Mirziyoyev realistically operates in a system that is still rooted in patron-client relations, nepotism and corruption.
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.
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Tajikistan’s investment environment is inhospitable, regardless of an investors appetite for risk. Business and politics are inseparable in the country, and the political elite successfully manipulate the political and commercial environment to their benefit – seen through cases of embezzlement, corruption, intimidation of rivals, and the diversion of profits offshore. Those who challenge the Presidential family in private enterprise inevitably face repercussions.
A month after the Saudi King’s landmark visit to Moscow, the courtship between Russia and the Saudis is yet to show signs of a slowdown. While a lot of the discussion revolves around the geopolitical dividends for the Kremlin, the new partnership has more pragmatic business implications for key power players. Shadow Governance looks beyond the headlines to uncover the key Russian benefactors of the new friendship between Moscow and Riyadh.
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.
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.
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?
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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.