According to this exit poll, Nazarbayev will win the elections by an even bigger margin than expected:
The RIA-Novosti and Interfax news agencies said an exit poll by a Russia-based political consulting firm showed Nazarbayev leading with more than 87 percent of the vote.
‘There were multiple violations of the law,’ said Aidos Sarimov, a spokesman for the runner-up, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, who according to the exit poll won just 9.58 pct.
‘We intend to use all potential, possible legal mechanisms to protest these violations,’ Sarimov told reporters in the state’s biggest city Almaty.
According to Sarimov, voter lists were falsified and the official turnout of 75.5 percent was inflated.
People are still casting their ballots in Kazakhstan, where President Nazarbayev is so confident he’ll win another 7-year term that he’s already organised the party:
Amid allegations of official and opposition misdeeds, Nazarbayev is so confident of victory over his four challengers that he has scheduled a gathering with supporters at a sports complex in the capital Astana on Monday morning, just minutes after election officials plan to announce preliminary results.
There is already a semi-excuse in case not everything goes according to plan:
Central Election Commission chairman Onalsyn Zhumabekov claimed this month that purported election observers had prepared statements alleging voting violations that they would submit to cast doubt on the poll’s legitimacy.
Here in London, the Caspian Information Center (which has sent their own team of observers to Kazakhstan) is slated to publish their verdict on the elections on Monday. Also, the OSCE will announce their impressions during a press conference tomorrow.
The OSCE could be too critical in its assessment than to let Kazakhstan head the organisation in 2009:
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which will monitor the elections with 465 observers, directed criticisms towards the Kazakh administration. The organization claimed only a few articles from the “correction list” were realized, which they sent to the Kazakh administration to hold elections in the international level.
Kazakh-Kyrgyz Union as an initial step
During the international investment and business conference in Almaty June 14-16, 2005 organized jointly by Asia Society and the Government of Kazakhstan, the president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev repeated his previous initiative at the his union address in February 18, 2005 for the Creation of Central Asian Economic Union.
Despite Kazakhstan’s active integration efforts in the region, there is little progress made on the ground by the other four Central Asian states. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan’s initial economic union could pave the way for a longer-term union in the Central Asian region at large.
In addition, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan customs-free union could serve as a template for future integration in this volatile yet strategic region. Moreover, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan’s economic union has a potential to urge other Central Asian states to implement economic reforms in order to join the union. Economic reforms and open markets are sina qua non for political reforms and liberalization.
Thinking about the economical situation in Central Asia and trying to find out what are the differences and similarities between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan I’ve come to such the staff as follows.
While searching the information on Kyrgyzstan’s country profile through websites I’ve come across to a catchy description of Kyrgyzstan that said: “No whistles and bells, just a friendly face and some mighty big mountains.”
The saying appeared for me truly appealing to Kyrgyzstan people who for the most time are calm and don’t feel like talking much and take mountains as something kin to themselves. At the soviet time Kyrgyzstan was always associated as a country that would never face any kind of break through or anything like that, which happened on March 24, 2005.
Even the Kyrgyz people in the northern part where I come from I believe didn’t expect any “revolution” would break up in the country. I was totally surprised that Kyrgyz people would become so active. I believed that the country had been slowly decaying and nothing would stop it from it. But it appeared that the southerners had some power to break up the event and the time actually started for Kyrgyzstan to spin faster.
Trying to understand why actually the third “revolution” erupted in the former soviet republics, one can definitely come to the idea that people were not satisfied with life they had. Thus the main problem is about economic situation of the countries. At the soviet time Kyrgyzstan’s economy was tightly connected with Rissia’s and whatever enterprises and businesses the country had they were dependant on that ties.
According to “CIA World Factbook,” Kyrgyzstan is “poor, mountainous country with predominantly agricultural economy. It is true that the country is landlocked and about 95% of mountains hold the spots of valleys in Chui, Talas and Osh regions. After the Soviet Union collapsed the industrial activity fell down simultaneously and naturally the agricultural sector was left to deal with since it was the only sector that would somehow help the citizens to survive.
Now after the political incentives have started to strive for more productive economy it is still not so much clear what exact steps one need to undertake for making a break through in the economical side. Shall we continue to develop agricultural sector or shift to the digging out for natural deposits, which are believed to be abundant in the country land.
According to CIA World Book Kyrgyzstan exports such commodities as gold, mercury, uranium, natural gas and hydropower.
On the other hand the country with more agricultural economy realities has routs of producing cotton, wool and meat. While the population under poverty line is estimated for 40% it have become puzzled at the economical situation of the country. “Tourism might help. Mountaineers looking for a new and exotic location could bring a lot of money to the country,” says Jonathan Barth, an American photograph, who visited Kyrgyzstan from 1995-1997.
I remember talks of Kyrgyz people at ex-president’s time that Kyrgyzstan second Switzerland in terms of nature and the mountainous environment that we have. But the question is how to make the work done or even which way to start? Jipara Ibrayeva, graduate student at KIMEP and citizen of Kyrgyzstan says: “The country should launch its economic priorities in a few directions, that is electric power, gold mining sector and tourism.”
These words are from no one less than political aide of the president Ermukhamet Ertysbayev (via FT). He says that all 16 regional hokims were briefed not to interfere with a free and fair election process this coming Sunday.
Taken that President Nazarbayev’s poll rating stands almost unchallengeably at above 60%, plus the fact that the country wants to hold the OSCE presidency in 2009, the Kazakh government will try to make sure that the very same organisation’s report reads well and smoothly.
Some diplomats accept claims that the president wants a free poll. Mr Nazarbayev, they say, craves international legitimacy.
But as with almost all other elections in the FSU, the real challenge to free and fair elections lies before the actual polling day. Also in Kazakhstan, the run up to the ballot was overshadowed by biased and lopsided media coverage of the candidates (favouring the incumbent), and incidents of violence towards opposition media outlets.
Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, the leading opposition candidate, says he faces the “standard range” of post-Soviet electoral chicanery: seizure of opposition newspapers, limited access to state-controlled TV, mysterious cancellations of venues or planes for campaign rallies.
James’s post on a mysterious suicide couldn’t fit more in here.
Nevertheless, there are no signs that Nazarbayev won’t win Sunday’s poll, and most probably, the elections will technically be the most free ever held in Kazakhstan. Will Kazakhstan follow through on promised reforms during another seven years of Nazarbayev, though? One of the points mentioned most frequently is parliamentary reform, already discussed on this blog here. According to the FT article (see link above), “[a] bigger question may be whether Mr Nazarbayev will follow through on promised political reforms, enlarging parliament and its powers, if he does win”.
Enlarging the powers of the parliament? I thought Nazarbayev had already precluded this option. Well, if he has changed his mind, he might want to read this draft document written by a Canadian parliamentarian.
Two points in that document are quite telling:
(3) Developing/strengthening a management board for the Parliament
Neither the secretary general of the lower house (the Marjolis) nor the Senate showed much interest in developing a management board. Both stated that the Presidential Administration controls the allocation of all resources for the Parliament, down to supplying pens and pencils. This was unlikely to change in the near future.
(4) Strengthening the Parliament’s human resource framework.
No interest was shown in this area.
So, while we could expect a relatively large degree of further economic reform, the culture of politics is not set to change for the time being. In the words of Yevgeni Volk, the head of the Moscow office for the Washington-based Heritage Foundation (via VOA):
“(President) Nazarbayev is not interested in changing the situation in introducing some new kind of reforms. He’s not so much open toward western-style democracy. He’s not interested in developing civil society in the country,” he noted. “So, I believe that there will be some kind of combination between relatively-free market economy which could be very attractive to investors and a tough political situation, whereby the opposition would have a very limited voice, very limited impact inside the country.”
Central Asian countries face numerous problems in the delimitation and demarcation of their borders. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, China, and all five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – accepted the old Soviet borders. Nevertheless, those administrative frontiers had never been clearly demarcated and thus pose a regional security threat to Central Asia today.
At present, there are territorial disputes between all of the former Soviet Central Asian republics. In particular, Uzbekistan is belligerent towards its neighbors, due to its larger population and stronger military in relation to other Central Asian countries with possible exception of Kazakhstan.
On the other hand, Kazakhstan, largest in geographic size, is more advanced than Uzbekistan economically, with a GDP almost four times as large. There are currently tensions between Tashkent and Astana as with all states. Thus, border issues have a long potential long-term destabilizing effect on the relative peace and security in Central Asia today between states.
In this article, the focus is placed on border disputes between the two largest states of Central Asia – Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are vying to become the regional leader in Central Asia with varying degrees of success. From early 1990s, Uzbekistan was the leader in Central Asia up to the year 2000. From the year 2000, Kazakhstan’s economy doubled and Kazakhstan assumed a leadership position in the Central Asian region particularly after the Andijan events this past May. Read the full story »
Today, Kazakh police officials declared Zamanbek Nurkadilov, formerly a Kazakh opposition leader, to have committed suicide. If the police are correct, then it was one heck of a suicide. Assuming Nurkadilov did manage to kill himself, he had the resolve to shoot himself twice in the chest, and then finish the job with a direct shot to the head. He could have made things easier on himself and used a wooden Katana.
Nurkadilov was found dead a few weeks back after declaring that he would go public with information about corruption in the Kazakhstan government. What sort of corruption he never specified, though he said it would be “high level.” Police found no signs of a break-in, and his body had barely cooled before police stated that they had “ruled out a political motive.”
Ruled out a political motive? A Kazkh opposition leader ends up dead right after indicating that he will reveal mass corruption and bribery in the highest levels of the Kazakh government, exactly when Kazakhstan wants to demonstrate to the world that it is ready to take its place in the international arena, and there is no reason to suspect a political connection?
While Police officials say they found no traces of forced entry, but they did find a pillow pierced by bullets, suggesting that it had been used to silence him and the gun shot if/when the deed was done.
The police also allege that Nurkadilov shot himself because of a “family conflict.” No kidding; the kind of family troubles that might arise from realizing that your days are numbered because you stepped out of bounds in the political arena? And even if his family wasn’t having trouble then, it’s a safe bet they are now.
Murders happen everywhere, even politically motivated ones, and if Kazakhstan wants to show that it is on the path of development, it should at least carry out a moderately thorough investigation, instead of insulting everyone’s intelligence with a belief-beggaring allegation of suicide. There may well be some information here I am not considering, but based on the news available, this affair reeks of exactly the sort of corruption Nurkadilov was purportedly going to expose.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union Kazakhstan (among the other former Soviet republics) was still under heavy Russian influence, most importantly in the economic hemisphere.
However, Russia has to think about why Kazakhstan has made a strategic decision to turn east for a cooperation with the Chinese state-owned oil company.
The extraction of oil and gas in Kazakhstan skyrocketed from 1995-97 when the Kazakh government launched wide-ranging economical reforms and privatization programs, which boosted the energy sector subsequently, according to the CIA World Factbook.
CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), a state-owned company, has achieved a solid control over independent oil producer PetroKazakhstan for $4.2 billion. It raises the question how far the privatization program once started is turning obsolete.
A formerly Canadian-owned company, PetroKazakhstan is going to have a 33% stake of KazMunaiGas, which is a state-owned oil company and itself holds 50% of the shares of PetroKazakhstan from CNPS. Alexander’s Gas and Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connection has the details.
It is clear that the state-owned companies strive to hold a strong stake in gas and oil production of the country, which counterplays the situation of small private enterprises.
An overview of the Kazakh economy asserts that 80% of GDP is achieved by the private sector of small businesses and the government estimated that by 2006 the number of small businesses will come up to 600,000.
The mention of Baikonur, the world’s largest space launch facility, is essential since it has been working for 50 years in Kazakhstan encompassing the Soviet times and even boosting its space launching experience after the country has achieved independence.
Russia has rented the Cosmodrome since 1993 and the international space launch projects such as “Integral” or the International Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory has worked from October 2002.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan prioritized using the huge spacecraft legacy for peace and stability within the country.
The spacecraft activity in Kazakhstan is not noticed to be talked about in terms of its business potential but pumping oil and gas has been boosted by the government programs and despite the fact that only 15% of Kazakh oil output is pumped by the state-owned company, KazMunaiGas.
Apart from the oil and gas industry, Kazakhstan’s economy is distinguished as a large producer of agricultural products as grain and livestock the CIA World Factbook says.
The light industry has been added recently to the country’s production field to diversify it. It already includes car-building as of the 2003 president’s decree (Transportation Development Plan). Among the supported industries is also biotechnology.
The question is how much the goal to diversify the economy has developed favourably for today’s Kazakhstan. Does the goal have anything to do with the country’s choice to give the priority for Chinese state-owned company?
Samal Alyshbaeva, MBA student at KIMEP, says: “I think the priority was determined long before the actual sale, since, for example, in Aktubinsk the oil companies already belonged to the Chinese businesses.”
A student from the Kazakh National Technical University, Salia Akysheva, believes: “ A Chinese connection has more to offer than has the Russian one, because modern China is much more developed technologically than Russia is – that is why Kazakhstan wants to weave ties with China.”
The general sentiment regarding the upcoming Kazakhstan election is that Nazarbayev has more to lose by rigging it and quashing opposition than he has to gain, given his popularity (see below reprinted posts, Ben’s earlier post, and the KZ Blog).
Looking backward in time a little, it is interesting to note that this is not the first election held in Kazakhstan where Nazarbayev stood to win handsomely. In past elections, however, Kazakhstan’s president chose to crack down on the opposition anyway to consolidate his rule.
Recall the case of Akezhan Kazhegeldin. Kazhegeldin served as prime minister from 1994 to 1997 and tried to run for president in the election of 1999, but was barred due to his “criminal record.” His crime? Holding an unsactioned meeting to launch his new political party. Faced with arrest, Kazhegeldin fled the country and was nearly extradited from Rome until Italy’s Justice Ministry intervened.
In the past, the fact that he would a) win, and b) be internationally lauded has not prompted Nazarbayev to hold fair elections. While he would almost surely win in these instances, Nazarbayev can not always know that this will hold true. Setting the basis for a system that values and protects fair, competitive elections means that he – and perhaps more importantly, his family – can not always be assured dominance in the long term, even if elections do not threaten his rule in the short term. Much has been written on the political dynasty he is grooming, including his daughter, Dariga, and her husband Rakhat Aliyev, and his son, Timur Kulibayev.
I am not arguing that these elections will be rigged in the same way as past elections. With the United States’ new focus on Kazakhstan as the leading nation in Central Asia coupled with the US State Department’s current emphasis on democracy and freedom, Nazarbayev arguably does have more to gain by legitimizing these elections than those in the past. It is merely interesting to point out that there are precedents, and the incentives that led Nazarbayev to rig elections in the past have not gone anywhere.
Another crosspost from KZBlog.
neweurasia posted recently on this International Herald Tribune article raising a timeless question–how sincere is the government about fair elections? The article says it is all show, citing issues with opposition newspapers being seized, and the overall autocratic politics of former Soviet leaders; my own earlier post was presented as evidence that the registration is being taken quite seriously. And I will say that I have seen no evidence of dirty pool in general, though a fair amount of self-censorship. As was pointed out in neweurasia here Nazarbayev would appear to be more at risk of the appearance of election fraud due to high election results, than actual election fraud. The appearance of free elections is key to both international image in general and OSCE leadership in 2009.
To give an idea of how serious the Kazakhstan government is about these elections appearing to be free, we can look at the International Media Center’s report for the 14th to the 20th Novemeber. Authorized by the Ministry of Culture, Information, and Sport to monitor media coverage, the report covers objective statistics about coverage of each candidate. A sampling:
1. The Nazarbayev quotation index as presidential candidate is notably lower than the number of commercials and references focusing on his activity as Head of State. Abylkasymov and Yeleusizov are reviewed only as candidates. Tuyakbai and Baimenov are mentioned in other connections also.
2. Most of the Nazarbayev credits are provided by non-governmental channels. Tuyakbai’s and Yeleusizov’s coverage is approximately equal in the state owned and non-governmental channels, while the activity of Abylkasymov and Baimenov is featured somewhat more by the state television than the non-governmental channels.
This is followed by actual statistics of time, source, and attitude (positive, negative, neutral). Needless to say Nazarbayev wins hands down for coverage–though this includes coverage of him as President. The Ministry makes frequent, publically broadcasted, announcements of these sorts of results. One wonders if it includes the free newspapers stuffed in mailboxes–most of which are pro-opposition.
This is all very good, but it does point to the attention to the appearance as opposed to the substance, the root causes, the reasons why the opposition does not get attention from the media, why the opposition is not firmly grounded. Overall the reasons cited, in newspapers and by the population, are:
- The opposition is weak and infighting makes them weaker. There is truth to this, of course.
- The opposition is corrupt–they just want power and have nothing of significance to say. There is truth to this as well of course.
- Self-censorship out of fear or out of belief that Nazarbayev will win anyway; why cover a loser? I think more attention needs to be paid to this. And the institutional arrangements made originally to weaken the opposition that still have lingering effects today.
- State government sources excluding opposition candidates or portraying them only negatively/closing down opposition newspapers, seizing copies of papers, etc.
Some of this may fit into self-censorship with citizen groups harassing opposition nes sources on their own. I believe that reports like the above demonstrate that the level of direct government intereference is lessening, though there are troubling reports nonetheless. There are also some silly reports such as police citing that a newspaper had improperly renewed its license-the report was made two months before the newspaper renewed its license, so how did the police know it would be done improperly. This kind of incompetence indicates a lack of interference by the central authorities who are far too smart for that.
It is pleasant to hear that Tuyakbai had access to President Clinton and the OSCE observers, after earlier reports that this sort of access was being blocked.
- Many official sources restrict themselves to facts–if you read gazeta.kz or kazinform you will note that most news reads something like, “Tuyakbai met with voters of South Kazakhstan oblast today. The turn-out was 1500. He talked about political reform.” This briefness, unwittingly, does a disadvantage to the opposition whose platform may not be as well known as the Head of State’s platform.