Presidential Leadership Styles and Forms of Authoritarianism in Post-Soviet Central Asia

Azamat Sakiev, Syracuse University


The countries of post-Soviet Central Asia share remarkable similarities: they came into existence at the same time, have since undergone similar processes and challenges in establishing statehood, are culturally related to each other, share similar historical paths, and have nearly--if not totally-- identical political institutions. Despite such similarities, however, the countries have developed distinct political regimes manifested, among others, in the consolidation of presidential power--the degree to which the presidents hold the monopoly on power and allow for political contestation and challenges to their authority from opponents. This study suggests that the differing ways the power was consolidated in Central Asia have led to divergent types of political regimes and are closely associated with the leadership styles adopted by the presidents in each country during the period immediately following independence. In Uzbekistan, the president's advocate style allowed him to eliminate political opposition early on and dominate the political landscape. In Kazakhstan, the president's pragmatic-advocate style resulted in a less repressive political order. In Kyrgyzstan, the president's opportunistic style allowed for more oppositional activity resulting in the most vibrant political scene in the region.