Kazakhstan Recruits “Proper” Monitors
As the parliamentary elections are approaching, the authorities are becoming more and more active in international lobbying and positive image-making. Last week I wrote about Paris-based PR firm, which gently prepares international public for invetable landslide victory of the ruling party “Nur Otan”.
However, victory requires certain conditions to be observed – and positive international reaction is a very important component. The main problem with this will, obviously, be the OSCE again. None of the Kazakh elections were deemed free and fair by the Organization.
During the last votes, the CIS and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) observers were to counter critical stand of ODIHR. But Kazakhstan formally still aspires to win OSCE chairmanship for 2009; the final decision is to be made at the Madrid Ministerial in November this year.
In this regard, it is highly strategic for the authorities to get a loyal mission from the OSCE, in which 20% of monitors are coming from the U.S. Kazakhstan’s new ambassador in Washington, D.C., took on to stuff the American quota in the OSCE mission with “proper observers”.
Ken Silverstein, Washington editor of the Harper’s Magazine, says:
“Erlan Idrissov, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador-Designate to the United States, has a public relations plan to ensure that no matter how rigged the election, it will be perceived to be free and fair.”
Ambassador Idrissov sent a letter to several hundreds of U.S. lobbyists, researchers et al. “to offer an opportunity to enrich your experience related to our country and to assist in further development of a fledgling democracy in Kazakhstan” by observing the August election.
At that, Idrissov notes – it is important that the observer team be made up of “experienced and knowledgeable representatives capable of making broad-based, well-balanced and forward-looking observations.” Obviously, neither critics nor annoying rights activists are welcomed.
Al Kamen, a columnist of the Washington Post, reacts:
“It surely makes sense that Nursultan Nazarbayev, ruler of oil- and gas-rich Kazakhstan since just before it broke from the Soviet Union in 1991, would want to get the “right” people on the monitoring group, run by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe”.
He also sought a comment from the Human Rights Watch, which apparently didn’t receive a friendly ambassador’s letter:
“I’ve never heard of a country trying to stack an OSCE mission with ‘friendly’ election observers,” said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. “Kazakhstan is obviously more interested in manipulating the image of its elections than it is in actually improving them.”
Interestingly, according to the letter, the applicants had to pave their way to observation mission through Pacific Architects and Engineers, a private security contractor owned by Lockheed Martin that is recruiting the American observers.