BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Understanding authoritarian decentralisation and its effects: the case of post-Soviet Kazakhstan

Fri8  Apr02:20pm(20 mins)
Teaching Room 4


Ilyas Yesdauletov


There is a general expectation that authoritarian countries tend to maintain a centralised governance system in which the role of subnational governments is reduced to a “transmission belt” that do not make meaningful decisions but execute the centre’s directives. I challenge this view by arguing that informal powers of authoritarian subnational governments enable them to exercise far greater authority than the formal laws and regulations stipulate. This argument is based on the theoretical framework, which claims that authoritarian states are characterised by neo-patrimonial governance in which informal institutions penetrate formal hierarchies, and formal rules are systematically twisted and manipulated for personal gains. The research is based on thorough document analysis and interviews with experts and government officials in post-Soviet Kazakhstan. The study aims to identify the main features of such authoritarian decentralisation, and its results can be generalised to other post-Soviet countries to a certain extent.