Kazakhstan is set to strengthen bileratal ties with almost everyone:
- Kazakhstan determined to deepen ties with Russia, U.S., EU
- Kazakh-American relations will be developing favourably
- Kazakhstan to strengthen cooperation with China
Apparently, the best ties exist with Russia. However, there won’t be a ‘reunification’: Kazakhstan has no Russia accession plans
The reason for the universal diplomatic love campaign is obvious: It’s diplomacy to secure the Kazakh people from external threats
According to [FM Kassymzhomart Tokayev], the main aim of the domestic diplomacy is to provide for security of our people from the external threats. In connection with this the ministry develops “business-plans” for each country. All priorities of bilateral relations and political profits, which Kazakhstan may derive from these contacts, will be described in them.
Michael Coleman, in an article for the Washington Times, presents us with quite a lopsided view of Kazakhstan’s economic boom. Reading his anecdotes from Almaty, I bet this man has not left the centre of town to look at how poor people actually are a couple of stonethrows away.
These days in Almaty there is more than a whiff of optimism in the air. Well-dressed young men driving late-model Audis and Toyota Land Cruisers weave through traffic on their way to business meetings. Trendy coffee shops blast the latest techno music, and storefronts flaunt the latest international fashions.
Certainly true. There is something one could describe as a boom. Nevertheless, people in the suburbs are less enthused about the rapid change, as they simply don’t get any piece of the cake. And never mind the people living outside the more or less vibrant centres Almaty and Astana.
Although poverty levels are decreasing, there could have been much more progress.
Ah, as for the title of this post:
With five weeks remaining until the presidential election, incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev and his top aides are jittery. They aren’t afraid of losing the Dec. 4 election; rather, they’re afraid of winning too big.
Just about everyone in this young democracy — including many in the opposition parties — predicts the popular president will prevail at the polls. But Mr. Nazarbayev and his advisers are worried about losing credibility on the world stage if the election is marred by fraud or irregularities.
Spot on, so why not rig the elections downwards then?
RiaNovosti has an interesting story on the future of Kazakhstan’s political system. Nazarbayev, who will run for yet another presidential term in December (and most likely win it), is opposed to the idea of changing Kazakhstan into a parliamentary republic.
He says that:
“We had a parliamentary republic with the communist Supreme Soviet [parliament] in 1993 and 1994,” he said, addressing a congress of entrepreneurs in the capital of Astana.
Taking the post-Soviet turmoil as an indicator of how well-tailored certain political systems are for Kazakhstan is likely to be troublesome. Also, from the data I can access, this statement is not quite true. The first Kazakhstani constitution was accepted in 1993, granting Nazarbayev wide-reaching authority. However, this was sort of counter-checked by a parliament more powerful than it is today.
Apparently, the President was not all too keen to leave it that way: In December 1993, following Boris Yeltsin’s dissolution of the Russian Duma, Nazarbayev dissolved the Supreme Council of Kazakhstan as well, vesting him with powers explicitly not provided for by the constitution. The next parliament that constituted after the 1994 elections was also dissolved.
So why does Nazarbayev then dismiss the fact that a more powerful parliament could actually be beneficial to Kazakhstan’s development and political stability, when his only argument against such a power reshuffle is the flawed anecdote of 1993-1994?
Also, I’d like to know who these ‘Western political scientists’ are:
He also said a group of authoritative Western political scientists who spent a year-and-a-half studying Kazakhstan’s society and government concluded that for the nation to prosper, the present political system should remain unchanged for at least another twenty years.
Twenty years! But, of course Mr Nazarbayev is benevolent and will himself use the powers to effect positive change:
But he said this by no means meant stagnation and promised that if elected for a third presidential term, he would launch liberal political reform to decentralize government authority, develop local self-government and fight corruption.
Let’s face it: Nazarbayev is not the worst option for Kazakhstan. Despite serious wrongdoings, he can be considered the cleverest and actually most successful Central Asian authocrat-president. However, there will be others succeeding him. Fermenting the strong position of the president, unchecked by any other constitutional body, can only bear potential risks for the future.
Obviously, people would object and point at the current parliament. Can this body be a real alternative to an un-checked president?
On the surface, a parliament packed with clients, supporters, and beneficiaries of the Nazarbaev regime would appear to reinforce the president’s already unchecked control over the legislative and political processes,
…says Bhavna Dave*. However, the parliament in its current setup itself is a direct outcome of the personality-centred Kazakh political system. The three political parties supporting the president seem to evolve into tools for likely contenders for the succession of Nazarbayev.
(…) Finally, the third group [influencing the President] consists of various oligarchs and business groups, notably the Eurasian Group, Kazakhmys, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, and others, who control more than half of the country’s industrial potential and also have their own political parties, such as Otan and AIST. Many commentators concur with Abilov that the election results [Parliamentary elections 2004]reveal the Family’s crumbling hold on power and the strengthening influence of the other two groups [family and the presidential administration]. Some analysts even suggest that Asar is the only effective opposition within the regime, as it is embroiled in a bitter rivalry with Otan and the AIST bloc behind closed doors. Asar is the product of the political and financial resources of both Nazarbaeva and her husband Aliev, although she is the most prominent member of the family after the president himself. Incidentally, Aliev is also Kazakhstan’s envoy to the OSCE. Should Kazakhstan succeed in obtaining the OSCE chair for 2009, it will be a vital boost to Aliev’s standing as well as Nazarbaeva’s efforts to obtain the international limelight.
At least some kind of pluralism… It will probably continue this way for the time being. I recall this to be quite a standard anecdote (at least I heard it more than twice over the last time): “Opposition is fine as long as it comes from within the government”. We could also dub that: Responsible Pluralism the Kazakh way.
China’s soaring demand of oil is boosting ties between SCO countries. RiaNovosti reports that Kazakh Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov has offered Russian oil companies the use of a Kazakh pipeline to transport oil to China.
China has already won President Putin’s support for a pipeline from Eastern Siberia, knocking out the other contester Japan.
This story appeared already some time ago in British papers, but I thought it would be interesting: British star architect Norman Foster, who designed quite a handful of the world’s most famous landmarks, will be applying his skills in Kazakhstan, according to the PR Newswire:
Called the Palace of Peace and Accord, architect Norman Foster’s pyramidal masterpiece will grace the urban landscape of Kazakhstan’s capital city, Astana as a global centre for religious understanding, renunciation of violence and the promotion of faith and human equality.
A little search on Foster’s website brings us to this staggering draft:
In addition to representing all the world’s religious faiths, the Palace houses a 1,500- seat opera house, a university of civilisation, and a national centre for Kazakhstan’s various ethnic and geographical groups. This programmatic diversity is unified within the pure form of a pyramid, 62 metres high with a 62 x 62-metre base. Clad in stone, with glazed inserts that allude to the various internal functions, the pyramid has an apex of stained glass by the artist Brian Clarke.
I guess this building will cost some $??? million.
Its cost is guarded as a state secret. Were it built in the UK, it would run into hundreds of millions of pounds.
First and foremost, IFES again proves to be the most reliable provider of information. The head of the Kazakhstan mission, Jennifer Wilson, publishes her collection of news stories on the Kaz-elections group, the latest edition is just out (HT: Nathan).
The registration process for the December presidential election ended yesterday, officially initiating the campaigning period that will end two days before polling day. Each of the five candidates will be allocated $41,000 for advertising and organising their campaign.
92 international observers were accredited, shared between the OSCE, IFES, and the CIS Mission.
Update: This report from the same source puts the number of international observers to 600.
Zharmakhan Tuyakbay was a deputy chairman of the pro-presidential Otan party and was elected to the new Majlis as No 1 candidate on the party list. Tuyakbay said he would give up his deputy mandate in the new Majlis and leave the Otan party over what he described in a newspaper article as unlawful actions by representatives of the executive bodies during the parliamentary election, held on 19 September 2004.
Yerasyl Abylkasymov (Communist Party)
Is known to the public for quite drastic words. When bans on religious parties were discussed in the Kazakh parliament, he said:
Communist party deputy Yerasyl Abylkasymov told Forum 18 that “in the time of Genghis Khan such ideological saboteurs were hung, drawn and quartered. Alas it is now unfortunately not possible to do this and so we have to defend ourselves by means of laws.”
Alikhan Baymenov (Ak Zol)
Co-chairman of the moderate opposition party Ak Zol that only has one deputy in the current parliament, but a growing number of members.
Mels Yeleusizov (Tabigat)
De facto independent candidate of the ecological Tabigat union. He evaluates his chances to win ‘rather highly’.
According to government media outlet Kazinform, it’s already clear who is going to make it:
The absolute leader of the five is the acting President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. Almost all political analysts and experts consider the other nominees have no chances to confront his authority. For the last 15 years the country, led by its permanent leader, achieved impressive success in all spheres of life.
In other news: Happy Republic Day:
The President has also pointed out, we must cherish our political stability, friendship, mutual understanding and love to each other. Everything we do we do for the sake of our country’s future.
Sven forwarded an Email from the AP newswire. I can’t find it online yet, though.
(…)Kazakh Police Break Up Almaty Protest, Hold 67 Activists 2005-10-06 03:21 (New York) — Kazakh police Thursday forcibly broke up a protest against housing problems in the commercial capital Almaty and detained 67 activists, an opposition alliance and rights groups said. The protest, involving more than 1,000 people, was the latest in a series of demonstrations against city authorities’ alleged failure to address housing problems.
My friends in Almaty were all very interested in housing issues. Many planned developments in and around the southern capital require thousands of residents to move houses. As in Moscow, though, these relocations often coincide with massive intimidation campaigns, even murder is no rarity.
Ashgabad is the best example of where this all can potentially lead to. The city’s massive parks were home to thousands of people once before all buildings got torn down and made space for gigantic water fountains and monuments. Lonely residential areas in the middle of the capital look increasingly vulnerable to Turkmenbashi’s megalomaniac city development plans and might not be there anymore during my next visit.
In Almaty, however, it’s the private sector driving all this change. That does not say this is less brutal. Relocations often take place without appropriate compensation. Under false promises, even old and vulnerable people have to leave their homes, which they often inhabited for decades before. As paying rent is a less common practice in the FSU and people tend to own their houses/flats, they often loose their only security.
The violent protest break-up today is a deja-vu of a similar events last month and the month before.
Adil Soz reports that two staff member of the “Altyn Gasyr” newspaper have been severely assaulted. Kazhymurat Abilkaliyev, assistant editor, was attacked by four unidentified men distributing copies of his paper. A volunteer named Azamat Dospanov was rammed by another car while driving the paper’s own. The Kazakh police seem a bit cumbersome:
The Atyrau Internal Affairs Department (police department) has not yet started investigation in both incidents, despite the formal report filed by Dospanov.
Some days ago, six papers were banned from publishing, report IFEX and CPJ:
Six newspapers that have covered an opposition candidate’s presidential campaign were prevented on Monday from publishing their current editions, according to local and international press reports. Managers at the private printing company Vremya-Print in the financial capital of Almaty refused to explain why they would not publish Epokha, Svoboda Slova, Zhuma-taims, Apta.kz, Azat, and Soz.
The Kazakh Central Election Commission issued a ruling on 30 September certifying the eligibility of 11 presidential candidates. The most prominent of these candidates include incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev; Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, the leader of the opposition “For a Just Kazakhstan” bloc; parliamentarians Ualikhan Kaisarov and Erasyl Abylkasymov; businessman Salim Oten; lawyer Mekemtas Tleulesov; and Alikhan Baimenov, the leader of the Ak Zhol party (RFE-RL 10/3).
Despite the host of approved candidates, incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev seems perfectly positioned to secure a third, seven-year term in December. Kazakhstan, like other nations in Central Asia, has a history of rigged elections, but some observers say that Nazarbayev’s popularity seems sufficiently strong at this stage and he could easily win a free-and-fair vote (Eurasianet).
Nursultan Nazarbaev met on September 30 with visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried in Astana. The U.S. official, on his first official visit to the region, arrived in Kazakhstan from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and discussed bilateral economic and security cooperation with the Kazakh president. Although Washington remains concerned over the preparations for Kazakhstan’s December presidential election, in which Nazarbaev is seeking a further presidential term, the visit is intended to strengthen bilateral ties in the wake of the forced withdrawal of U.S. troops from the coalition air base in neighboring Uzbekistan (RFE-RL 10/3).