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Will the Extremely Boring Twitter Feed of Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Be Enough to Save Him?

Massimov with Medvedev during happier times in 2012. Russian government photo licensed for redistribution taken in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Massimov (right) with Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev during happier times in 2012. Russian government photo licensed for redistribution taken in front of the presidential palace in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The social media accounts of politicians in the former Soviet Union have provided journalists with rich material to work with in recent times.

Among the most notable are Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's wildly unpredictable Instagram page and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev's Armenia-baiting Twitter handle.

But over in the oil-rich Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Karim Massimov's recently re-invigorated Twitter deserves an honourable mention for the sheer brain-wrenching boredom of his tweets.

Below are four Massimov missives capturing events that presumably took place some time between him brushing his teeth in the morning and bedding down to sleep at night:

Fighting for survival

None of these largely ignored tweets evoke a man fighting for his political life, and Massimov is well known as one of 75-year-old President Nursultan Nazarbayev's most trusted allies.

But if one of Kazakhstan's top political analysts is to be believed, Massimov's return to social media is a direct reflection of power struggles at the very apex of politics in the Central Asian state.

In a recent Forbes.kz column, Dosym Satpayev wrote:

Не секрет, что борьба за премьерский пост также идет нешуточная. И долгое присутствие Масимова на этом посту объяснялось, в том числе, тем, что в Акорде его рассматривали в качестве эффективного антикризисного менеджера, что в условиях Казахстана является довольно условным обозначением. Ведь настоящая эффективность определяется не только способностью сжигать ресурсы Национального фонда или проводить девальвацию нацвалюты, но и повышением производительности труда всего государственного аппарата. Хотя в этом отношении имидж премьера уже находится под ударом. В глаза бросается массированная информационная атака, которую начали против премьер-министра другие игроки: и вечно «флюгерные» депутаты, и аффилированные с разными олигархическими группами медийные структуры.

It is no secret that the struggle for the prime minister's spot is a serious business. The long stay of Massimov in this post can be explained by the fact that [the administration of President Nursultan Nazarbayev] considered him an effective manager during a period of crisis that has come to define Kazakhstan […] In this respect, however, the premier's image is already under assault. A massive information attack has begun against the prime minister launched by forever fickle MPs and those affiliated with different oligarchic groups and media structures.

Satpayev continued:

В свое время с этого информационного поля Масимов также ушел, чтобы не дать своим противникам повод выставить себя в качестве «второго солнца на небе». Сейчас премьер чувствует, что «ловить тишину» уже довольно опасно. Пора демонстрировать активность, в том числе, и в глазах президента, который явно недоволен сложившейся политической и экономической ситуацией. Тем более, что в начале мая глава государства уже заявлял: «Политик должен говорить с людьми, разъяснять свою позицию, завоевывать доверие общества».

There was a time when Massimov vacated the information space, so as not to give his opponents a reason to depict him as a “second sun in the sky”. Now the premier feels it is more dangerous to stay silent. The time to demonstrate activity has come, including in the eyes of the president, who is clearly displeased with the current political and economic situation. Especially because at the beginning of May, the head of state said: “A politician has to talk to people to explain his position, to win the trust of society.”

This view of political pressures forcing Massimov's re-entry into the social media fray was also shared by Asemgul Kassenova, a journalist for one of the country's few relatively independent news websites, Tengri News, which at one time was rumoured to be owned by Massimov himself:

So, Massimov has returned to Twitter and has begun to joke at government meetings again. Ahem, ahem. How fed up we are with all this nonsense and Game of Thrones :-/

To be certain, Massimov's Twitter handle is a far cry from the never-ceasing drama of HBO's cult series watched by millions around the world, but perhaps Kazakh politics as a whole isn't.

Clan-based and corrupt, Kazakhstan's national political elite seems suddenly gripped by the uncertainty rooted in long-term ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev's age, plus an economic crisis stoked by recession in Russia and the collapse of global oil prices.

That has manifested itself recently in a number of high profile arrests and court cases against top-ranking officials and power-brokers that some have associated with Nazarbayeva's daughter Dariga taking up the post of deputy prime minister last year.

This could mean trouble for the long-serving Massimov, an urbane and intelligent administrator by all accounts, but one who as an ethnic minority* may lack the deep-rooted support networks required to fend off a sustained attack on his position.

If Kazakhstan's head of government is destined to go, he will hope that this tweet from when he first created his Twitter account back in 2012 does not come back to haunt him.

* Massimov is commonly referred to by Kazakhstanis as an ethnic Uighur, although he has never self-identified as such. Ethnic Uighurs make up less than 2% of the country's population.
  • HansG

    Prime Minister Massimov is a good leader and well respected in Kazakhstan and internationally. Tweets from a leader or government official are not supposed to be exciting. Massimov’s status or leadership position are not in question. The Kazakh people respect his leadership.

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