After two decades at the helm of Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev appears entrenched in power and shows no signs of wanting to relinquish it. Just below the president, however, factional infighting appears to be roiling the country’s political waters. The clearest indicator of intrigue is recent allegations of a coup conspiracy.
The late August appointment of a new state security chief offered the first hint of behind-the-scenes mischief. Nazarbayev removed career security officer Adil Shayakhmetov as chief of the National Security Committee (KNB) and installed a political heavyweight, Nurtay Abykayev, in his place. Speculation the switch was motivated by a desire to ensure the KNB’s loyalty to the presidential administration increased when unconfirmed reports surfaced that an official named Musabekov in the Prosecutor-General’s Office had been arrested on charges of illegal wiretapping.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.