This is the last in my series of guarded predictions for the year ahead in the Caspian region.
I have left Kazakhstan until last for the simple reason that it is the trickiest to predict. The three biggest political and security issues in the country – the labour unrest in the west, the militant threat and the presidential succession – are complex and defy easy forecasts.
After the crackdown on strikers in Zhanaozen on December 16, which led to at least 16 deaths and sparked riots elsewhere, the situation appears to have stabilised. President Nazarbayev’s response to the violence has been fairly efficient: regret has been expressed for the loss of life, prosecutors have begun investigating the police who shot protestors, reconstruction work has been launched, and Mangistau provincial governor Krymbek Kusherbayev has been sacked.
Equally telling is who is not being investigated or sacked – the senior security officials who orchestrated the operation. This may be distasteful for those who want justice to be done, but in practical terms it probably won’t mean that much. As Joshua Foust notes, “Even if the punishment to the police is limited to a few symbolic prosecutions, that will in all likelihood be enough to halt any attempts to convert this horrible tragedy into a regime-ending event.”