Leaders of Otan, Kazakhstan's leading pro-government political party, say the bombing of the party's offices in Almaty was designed to foment instability in the Central Asian nation. Meanwhile, opposition activists express concern that the explosions may provide the government with an excuse to tighten its control over the country's political life.
Two bombs detonated in quick succession on November 28 in the building housing Otan's offices in Almaty, Kazakhstan's commercial center. The blasts caused only light property damage, and left one person slightly injured. According to Almaty police chief Moldiyar Orazaliev, authorities as of late November 29 had yet to identify any witnesses, and had made no arrests in the case.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev is directly supervising the investigation. So far, officials have all but ruled out the possibility that Islamic radicals were behind the explosions. Some preliminary police theories held that the explosions were the result of "hooliganism," or somehow connected to organized criminal activity. The building in which Otan had its headquarters also housed offices belonging to commercial enterprises, meaning that the political party might not have been the intended target.
Addressing a November 29 news conference, Otan party leaders Amangeldy Yermegiyayev and Alexander Pavlov insisted that the explosions were politically motivated. They characterized the bombings as a "provocation" that aimed to undermine "the stability of our state." Otan was the leading vote-getter in parliamentary elections last September. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].
The vote, which was widely criticized by international observers as unfair, gave pro-Nazarbayev political forces a dominating parliamentary majority.
Both Yermegiyayev and Pavlov rejected the idea that members of Kazakhstan's main opposition parties played a role in the bombings. At the same time, Yermegiyayev hinted that opponents of Nazarbayev's policies could have orchestrated the incident. "Probably certain persons and groups do not like the dynamic development of our state," Yermegiyayev said, stopping short of naming names. Pavlov, meanwhile, abhorred political violence, saying: "We hope that political dialogue in our country will be conducted exclusively by political means."
Bolat Abilov, Ak Zhol's co-chairman, indicated that the bombings could possibly be a government provocation, in which authorities sought to create a pretext that would legitimize a crackdown on the opposition. "I think authorities will try to carry out a scenario in which it will accuse definite forces in organizing these explosions," Abilov said. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].
One Kazakhstani political analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bombs blast could be connected to events in Ukraine, where opposition protests, driven by charges of vote-rigging in the November 21 presidential run-off, are increasing the pressure on incumbent authorities to hold a fresh poll. The Kazakhstani government may be intent on intimidating its opponents in order to diminish the perceived risk of a repetition of the Ukrainian scenario in Kazakhstan. "We ought to look at it [the Almaty bombing] within the context of broader developments," the expert said. "The [Ukrainian] opposition is close to bringing about regime change [in Kyiv]. ... Developments [in Kyiv] could urge some elements within the [Kazakhstani] government to organize such an action [the Almaty bombing] in order to justify an increase of political pressure."
Ibragim Alibekov is the pseudonym for a Kazakhstan-based reporter and analyst.