Kazakhstani PM Karim Massimov’s Hashtag PR Campaign Backfires
After a lengthy hiatus, Kazakhstan’s prime minister returned to his Twitter account with a vengeance earlier this year. Karim Massimov’s tweets have been notable largely for their teeth-grinding tediousness, however.
So his social media team (if it exists) must have imagined they would turn the tide around on August 9, when Massimov invited followers to adopt the hashtag #25летнезависимости (#25yearsofindependence) to crowdsource examples of major national achievements over the past quarter century.
State news agency Khabar bizarrely tried to get the ball rolling with some usefully encouraging, if anodyne, examples.
“Madina Yerkin: Did you know that Kazakhstan belongs to 70 international organizations? #25летнезависимости,” read one.
“Bazaraiyim Akzhan: This is interesting! Did you know that at Cambridge University you can study Kazakh language, history and culture? #25летнезависимости,” bragged another.
These did not appear to be real social media postings, but rather the kind of thing Khabar that wanted people to tweet. In the way that post-Soviet governments are convinced that a flash mob is a pre-organized rally organized by the authorities, Khabar and Massimov seem to believe this is how trending is done.
Alas, scrutiny of Twitter reveals that this initiative has failed completely. Jaded tech-savvy Kazakhstanis have, contrary to the intended spirit of the hashtag, used #25летнезависимости to express their bitter irony about their lot.
Twitter user @AlmiriKarpykov wrote: “Our national currency embarked on a bright path of devaluation from 4.75 to 345 to the dollar. And we know this isn’t the end #25летнезависимости”
@kasymjanym remarked how it was now possible to fear the police more than bandits and terrorists. @aidoseg wrote that over the last 25 years Kazakhstan “was not able to choose another president.”
“In #25летнезависимости, almost 5 million people have emigrated from Kazakhstan, one-third of the population, most of them educated and intelligent,” wrote @samsonino.
RFE/RL’s Kazakhstan service, Radio Azattyk, noted that civic activists have been contemptuous of the hashtag initiative.
“Kazakhstan is not currently in the position to be listing its achievements. The attempts of the premier to list ‘achievements’ at this moment, while the economy of Kazakhstan is going through far than positive times, seems like mockery at the expense of the people,” Aigul Orynbek told Radio Aztec
Nationalist activist Muhtar Taizhan struck a similar note on his Facebook page.
“For the 10 years of [Karim Massimov’s] premiership, the country’s debts have grown,” Taizhan wrote. “This year, this oil nation has been forced to take on more foreign debts to finance its budget and dip without asking into the pensions of its people.”
Taizhan likened Massimov to a schoolchild who had failed to study for 10 years but still expected to be given full marks for everything.
One emerging theory for Massimov’s sudden burst of activity on social media is that he wants to raise his profile ahead of his possible succession to the presidency. Judging by the failure of this #25летнезависимости hashtag though, the furniture movers can rest easy for now.