ALEM RESEARCH analytics company shared results of a town and city mayors rating exercise. It was based on a monitoring study of Mass Media and social networks in February 2023.
Quite expectedly, the focus of the public attention was on those numerous central and local parliament candidacies (Majilis and Maslikhats, respectively). Electoral scandals and investigations overflooded social networks, that is why the public got a bit distracted from rather curious nuances associated with the performance of persons put in charge of our urban communities, both small and those of national level.
Legacy of January and Deviation from Democracy
The most discussed Akim of the Month of February was that of Almaty. Number of mentions and references to his personality and performance was twice as many as those associated with Darkhan Satybaldy, the Turkestan Province Akim, which individual featured second in the February tables.
ALEM RESEARCH analytics made conclusion that the Almaty Akim was still chased by echoes from his own public statement concerning demolition of Almaty micro-districts made in January 2023. Almaty folks only ceased to discuss his dubious statements by the middle of February. Closer of the end of January, the Almaty City Hall presented for public discussion the Almaty Development Master-Plan, which plan became of great contribution into the results of the February sociologic monitoring exercise. Active thinkers from social networks poured more gasoline into the fire of mass indignation about the idea to use zeppelins to clean Almaty air from smog. Social network users sought out and dragged into the public spotlight some nuances from the said Mater-Plan, which nuances surface only after rather considerate look into the document.
For example, after a rather primitive manipulation with statistics and under silent support from the Almaty Maslikhat, the Akim lobbied a novelty – allowed density of population at 44,000 individuals per one square kilometer. That population density is twice as bigger, compared to the density of population in the most densely populated urban communities of the world, which communities today suffer from excess population concentration.
Kazakh Mass Media broadly discussed some statements from Akim Dosayev’s speech at the Digital Almaty 2023 forum. Social networks showed rather inert reaction to those statements, but their attitude is clear – you can make dozens of various smart, digital and interactive maps of the city, but that shall not resolve the transportation and air pollution problems. Curious is the fact that Almaty Akim became a hero of publications made in foreign Mass Media. Those publications scored 10-12% of all mentions.
Foreign press caught hold of the following two events. The first was Akim Dosayev’s rejection of a request from the Kazakh Feminist Society to run a public activity on the 8th of March, the International Women’s Day. The second was the acclaimed rejected application from one public activist to be permitted to run a picket in support of Ukraine.
Taking into consideration, that any organized public activity in this country requires prior notification of local governance authorities with their subsequent approval or disapproval to do so, there were numerous questions as to the above two events, particularly the first one, because Feminists did run their public march of the 8th of March. But, still – Almaty Akim was mentioned in the publications in such reputable Western Mass Media, as New York Times and Washington Post, not to mention numerous minor information web-portals, that have Russian-speaking audiences, as well. Western press did not care much about details – judging by the tone of publications, for them important was the fact itself, i.e. Akim’s refusal to permit those two events.
Articles in Western Mass Media were not very big, but all of them send one clear message – the Almaty Akim is one bright example of the lack of democracy in Kazakhstan. And they, Wester Mass Media, added that because Kazakhstan is under the influence of Russia and China, the country turned its back on European values, thus jeopardizing development of democratic principles and global order.
Water and Children
Darkhan Satybaldy, the Turkestan Province Akim featured second in February tables, but his Mass Media and social networks publicity looked far better, compared to peers from the February Ratings Top-3. He gathered far more positive mentions, than others. Like in January, Turkestan Province Akim enjoyed the positive attitude from social networks users, for heroism and successes in struggle against weather.
The February meltwater crisis came after the unprecedentedly cold and snowy January of 2023. Darkhan Satybaldy did not let his people down. Social networks were particularly positive in regards to Akim’s performance in the times of weather crisis. Relief campaigns in many rural communities came in time and were adequate to situation. In some villages the flooding was prevented or it did happen, but to a limited extent, compared to previous years.
There were many publications about Turkestan Province Akim’s on-air meeting with the local population. There was no excessive interest shown by audiences, but each reposting of the stream collected a couple of hundreds of comments.
Interesting was the fact that the majority of those comments were not open flattery,which means there were not many cyber-bots mobilized. Moreover, if the press-service of the local administration process those comments properly, lifting up positioning in the ratings will be a piece of cake for Mr. Satybaldy.
Population addressed Akim with their requests that may be grouped as follows. First – Akim’s Edict subsidizing child care in kindergartens. By that Edict, subsidies shall be paid for maintenance of children, starting from 3 years of age. People asked to drop the age margin down to 2 years. People claimed that live had turned more complicated and they could not afford to pay kindergarten fees to full.
People, also, referred to lack of enough kindergartens in particular locations. And people complained about some of local governors, whose performance confronted Darkhan Satybaldy’s own promise that he would have only those honest and unselfish in administrative posts
If Dosayev of Almaty is haunted with his own phrases, the Astana Mayor, Mr. Zhenis Kasymbek fell victim to legacy of his predecessors. In February, the nation again paid attention to the notorious Astana LRT project. The newly appointed Akim said that the nation would have to bring the project to its logical end and promised to close that issue by the end of 2024. We could have anticipated a wave of criticism in regards to that “Monument to Corruption”, but that did not happen. May be social networks grew insomniac from numerous LRT discussions, may be it was more trendy to criticize the elections campaign, may be Zhenis Kasymbek was wise enough not to have publicly discussed the cost of the project. He just said that the Government were already appropriate the funds necessary to accomplish the LRT project.
Astana Akim’s report on preparations to spring meltwater floods did not cause any special criticism. That is clear, because February is not the month to assess capital city’s combat alertness in the eyes of the upcoming meltdown. But Akim did voice his readiness and social networks took that into account. When the time comes, social networks will issue their verdict.
People gave Akim positive scores for physically meeting the dwellers of a couple of apartment blacks and promising to visit all problematic civil construction sites in Astana. Not only did he promise to attend those – he promised to resolve problems there. In any case, folks from the Koktal-1 suburbia were left satisfied and promised to wait for one more year.
Akim promised to have the sewer problem resolved in 2024. He said that engineering research was in process, as well as the identification of the route of the future sewer mains. He made references to chaotic city development of the previous years. He also promised to build a Sports Palace – for that they were already in process of making changes and amendments to the area development master-plan.
After Mr. Kasymbek’s promises to resolve all dwelling problems, social networks came into regime of activation – they started reporting to Akim all existing problems. Judging by feedback from social networks, the capital city suffered from a whole bunch of problems. Those were coal-heated mansions and cottages, lack of parks, lack of social infrastructure objects and problems with engineering communications.
The Akim of Astana is, for the time being, in a more privileged position – people assess his performance based on his promises, not real achievements.
ALEM RESEARCH stress that the rating exercise was based purely on the monitoring of Mass Media and social networks. The results of that exercise cannot be used to evaluate the performance of the Kazakh top-ranking public servants. The company, therefore, do not assume responsibility for any interpretation or speculations that may derive from the research and appearing in Mass Media and social networks.