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Kazakhstan’s Protests Postponed – But for How Long?
Kazakhstan’s Protests Postponed – But for How Long?
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev attends his swear-in ceremony in Astana on 29 April 2015. AFP/Ilyas Omarov

哈萨克斯坦之压力测试

相比于其推动政治变革的意愿,在执政已久的总统纳扎尔巴耶夫(Nazarbayev)领导下的哈萨克斯坦如今——尤其是在俄罗斯周边地区动荡之际——更渴望维持政局的稳定的延续。但是,若没有经济改革、全面的民族平等、和政权交接计划,哈萨克斯坦或会成为苏联解体后,又一个易受外局不稳因素干扰的国家。

概述

俄罗斯在乌克兰的行动,改变了哈萨克斯坦在俄罗斯对前苏联国家的意图上的判断,并加强了其危机感。纳扎尔巴耶夫总统及其政府采取了应对措施——巩固政权、维护经济稳定、并尽力减除对其北部省份会步入乌克兰后尘的担忧和猜测。俄罗斯族人作为北部省份少数民族,虽人口在不断减少,但基数依旧庞大。他们对哈萨克族本就怨言纷纷,且还要面对哈政府以“平衡”为由、对哈萨克族移民迁入的鼓励。尽管如此,至少现在俄罗斯不太可能在哈萨克斯坦复制其在乌克兰的行为,且其外交官员也表示俄罗斯决无此意。在哈萨克斯坦总统执政已久、且其威望和领导力依然稳固之际,哈萨克斯坦应采取更多措施去应对国内挑战,其重点包括经济发展、民族关系和政权交接。

由于俄罗斯受到国际制裁、油价不断下跌、卡什干(Kashagan)油田开发遭遇技术瓶颈,哈萨克斯坦经济已陷入迟滞,而经济增长则正是纳扎尔巴耶夫维护国家团结统一的主要手段。哈萨克斯坦于2015年4月26日提前举行了总统选举。7月便将年过75岁的纳扎尔巴耶夫,自哈萨克斯坦独立25年来,便一直担任总统。此次选举,因其人气尚未受经济措施严峻的影响,他再获连任。但上述仅是权宜之计;哈萨克斯坦中期前景仍如国际预防危机组织在2013年所估:体制脆弱、且过分依赖于一个缺乏明确政权交接计划的总统,社会经济发展不平衡更是雪上加霜。这些内部问题在乌克兰危机之前便已非常严重;而今还可能使外国动乱势力找到可乘之机。

受历史上的沙皇和前苏联定居政策的影响,与其他前苏联地区一样,哈萨克斯坦在独立时拥有庞大的俄罗斯族人口。俄罗斯语此前在当地亦得到推广,因此俄罗斯族人享有明显的优势。与在其它前苏联国家一样,自哈萨克斯坦独立后,许多俄罗斯族人迁往俄罗斯,而俄罗斯政府也一直鼓励其本族人的回归,并积极获取俄罗斯侨民的忠诚。与此同时,哈萨克斯坦也采取了类似的回归政策,尤其是通过推动吸引境外侨民(Oralmans)的政策,并鼓励他们迁往俄罗斯族仍占多数人口的北方省份。

俄罗斯声称,其在乌克兰行动是为了保护身处异地而受到歧视的俄罗斯族人。这个理由在哈萨克斯坦的北部省份看似难以成立,但也并非绝无可能。哈萨克斯坦需认识到,自1991年独立以来,国家和民族团结便一直是其治国的薄弱环节,且过于依赖对纳扎尔巴耶夫个人的忠诚。由他创立的、代表少数民族的机构——哈萨克斯坦人民代表大会(APK)——应采取更多行动来加强该国的多民族、多元文化特征。在哈萨克和其他族裔群体中,政府应促进温和派伊斯兰形象,这则将有助于打击极端主义。极端主义是中亚地区的一个潮流,哈萨克斯坦也难免受其影响。不过此举应妥善处理,否则这将在俄罗斯少数民族人口中引发矛盾。俄罗斯和哈萨克斯坦在保持区域稳定方面有共同利益。哈萨克斯坦邻国的情况不佳——乌兹别克斯坦和吉尔吉斯坦均政权薄弱——以及与阿富汗的地域邻近,这意味着哈俄双方急需制定可以促进共同利益的政策。

乌克兰危机使哈萨克斯坦一贯面临的挑战更复杂化和尖锐化,即,如何在与俄罗斯保持友好关系的同时、建设自己的国家意识。自2014年该问题变得严峻以来,阿斯塔纳当局一直试图制定外交政策得——使其既有别于莫斯科、又不至于惹恼莫斯科,且还能重修与西方的关系。纳扎尔巴耶夫在乌克兰问题调解上的努力则部分基于生存战略,他强调哈萨克斯坦是前苏联体系里的一个独立国家。他与欧盟继续会谈,并致力减少由俄领导的欧亚经济联盟(哈萨克斯坦和白俄罗斯是另外两个成员国)中的政治因素,而这也都是出于上述因素。考虑到哈萨克斯坦与俄罗斯有着7,951公里的边境线、基数庞大的俄罗斯族人口、以及紧密的经济关系,哈萨克斯坦需达到微妙的平衡。然而目前,这一切努力则过多地依赖于总统的个人领导力。

为了应对变幻莫测的国际环境、确保内部稳定,哈萨克斯坦应:

  • 坚持给予俄罗斯、欧盟、以及伊朗和中国同等重视的外交政策,包括重视囊括了这些国家或地区的国际机构,如,欧洲安全与合作组织(欧安组织(OSCE),俄罗斯和欧盟成员国为其成员)、及上海合作组织(俄罗斯和中国皆为成员国);
  • 在寻求解决乌克兰危机方面发挥国际认可的作用;在此过程中,其应为塑造俄罗斯与前苏联其他成员国之间关系发挥重要作用,并同时建立其作为调停者的声望;
  • 让——除纳扎尔巴耶夫之外的——国家高层领导人在政治舞台上露面,消除国际的偏见,即,纳扎尔巴耶夫是唯一领导人,并可独断专行;
  • 在敏感的语言问题(如用哈萨克语替代俄语地名)上谨慎行事,同时提升各级政府部门组成人员的民族多元化;鼓励俄罗斯人民融入并学习哈萨克斯坦语;加强APK的活跃度和工作,为公众讨论民族和公民问题创造条件,以免这些问题被恶势力、哈萨克或俄罗斯民族主义者或外部人士利用;
  • 优先考虑其它区域的经济发展,而非只关注阿斯塔纳。

比什凯克/布鲁塞尔,2015年5月13日

Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, during the United Nations General Assembly on 28 September 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Kazakhstan’s Protests Postponed – But for How Long?

In heading off a week of unprecedented waves of protests in Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has polished his reputation as his nation’s problem-solver-in-chief. But none of the underlying problems in this big Central Asian state have gone away.

The protests, ostensibly about extending the rights of foreigners to rent agricultural land after 1 July 2016, had led President Nazarbayev to revive warnings of a Ukraine “scenario” for his country. On the same day as protestors in south-central Kyzylorda faced off with riot police, the long-serving leader said Ukraine’s economy is in tatters “because there is no unity, no sense of purpose, no tasks are being solved, [people] are busy with other things: fighting, killing, brawling”.

Nazarbayev however quickly slapped a moratorium on the legal changes for landholdings, a decisive move that makes it seem unlikely – at least for now – that there will be any repeat in Kazakhstan of Ukraine’s years of domestic instability and crisis, lost territory and conflict.

But the moratorium only partially addresses what took protestors to the street. The demonstrations voiced deeper concerns about the state that Nazarbayev shows no sign of addressing any time soon. A collapse in oil income, decay in the provinces, a 75-year-old leader with no clear succession plan, distrust in government and fears of Chinese encroachment add up to a combustible mix in this thinly populated country the size of western Europe.

Protests against the government’s land leasing plans spread quickly to cities throughout the country. They began on 24 April in Atyrau in the resource-rich west of the country, where wealth has not filtered down and many workers have seen their relative financial and employment security eroded by the drop in oil prices globally. By 27 April, protests had spread to north-western Aktobe and north-eastern Semey. On 28 April, crowds confronted riot police in the Caspian Sea port of Aktau in the west. On 1 May, a small number of youth even challenged police in Almaty, the country’s south-eastern commercial capital.

Throughout the protests the police refrained from knee-jerk responses that result in injury or death – as happened in south-western Janaozen December 2011 when at least sixteen striking oil workers were killed by police.

But the situation was undoubtedly tense. “Unprecedented” was the word most often used when analysts and diplomats discussed the crisis. Even activists seem unprepared for the momentum the protests gained. Nazarbayev’s announcement of a moratorium was met with equal surprise.

Many Kazakhs are still worried by plans to allow foreigners to rent agricultural land for 25 years instead of the current ten years. And they fear that when land is rented to Chinese firms this will endanger Kazakh sovereignty. But most of all, the protests are about mounting frustration with Kazakh leaders, and the perception that having creamed what they could from every other resource in the country, the political elite is now preparing to sell the land from under people’s feet.

Nazarbayev’s 25-year-long rule of Kazakhstan is sustained by the type of stability an affluent autocracy can produce, but his family’s accumulation of wealth has not gone unnoticed. The snap parliamentary elections held in March 2016 to legitimise support for Nurly Jol (Bright Path), an economic crisis recovery plan, were uneventful but the exercise rang hollow. Since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan’s authoritarian tendencies, corruption and lack of genuine political reform have gone hand-in-hand with economic growth fuelled mainly by resources. Consequently, the recent economic crisis has bitten hard. Oil output is down, the national currency has plummeted­, inflation is up, and job insecurity is on the rise.

China’s role in Kazakhstan is also under the spotlight. Massive Chinese investments and equally large loans have done much to develop, and at times prop up, the Kazakh economy. Across Central Asia, misgivings about China’s long-term intentions run deep. Politicians and industrialists may be happy to do billion-dollar deals with China, but most citizens view China as a threat to their independence.

Workers in Aktobe have told Crisis Group that China’s industrial presence in the oil rich region – including big influxes of Chinese workers – meant unfair pay, unsafe working conditions, and fewer job opportunities for Kazakhs. But misgivings cut both ways. A senior Chinese oil executive said he would rather work in Africa than Almaty because of the discrimination he and his family faced on a daily basis. China has done little to counter these negative perceptions, preferring to conduct transactions at the highest level while taking a hands-off approach to difficulties encountered at the community level.

Internationally, Kazakhstan portrays itself as a trusted political and economic partner as it seeks a seat on the UN Security Council 2017-2018. Kazakhstan is indeed Central Asia’s most stable state, but tensions are building. The level of disconnect between the government in Astana and popular sentiment in the vast regions of Kazakhstan is pronounced, and tangible if you compare the marble and glass facades of the capital with the rundown infrastructure in the regions.

Kazakhstan does not have an inspiring track record when it comes to managing social unrest. The 2011 killings in Janaozen shocked the regime into improving policing. For now, the riot police have acted with restraint and professionalism, and some social media reports of alleged injuries have been exposed as provocations. It is vital that police ineptitude or deliberate brutality remains a priority for reform.

Equally, the government should refrain from clamping down on social media, which, in contrast to most state and privately owned media in Kazakhstan, is the main forum for debate and discussion. News reporting on the protests was thin and when it did make headlines it was to frame protestors as paid stooges. On 9 May, the day of planned protests in Almaty, several organisers were detained by police and the main square was closed off.

The protests came close to bringing together a variety of aggrieved groups with a diffuse but resounding anti-government message. How the authorities conduct themselves over the coming months will be a major test. At the very least, the recent riots should persuade Nazarbayev to reassess his policy of economic progress first, political reform second.

Kazakhstan is not doomed by fate to follow its fellow post-Soviet state Ukraine into turmoil, if cool heads prevail. But Kazakhstan is a brittle place, its leadership the product of the Soviet era, its policing tactics only subject to recent review, and China still has big strategic ambitions to invest in Kazakh agricultural land. The outburst of protests was unexpected, unnerving, and mark an unsettling opening to the next chapter of Kazakhstan’s independence.