This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS ALMATY 001525
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CACEN
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV PINR KZ POLITICAL SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIR, JUSTICE MINISTER SWITCH PLACES
1. (U) Summary: The GOK announced April 13 that Zagipa Baliyeva, the long-serving chair of the Central Election Commission, was stepping down from her position in advance of the scheduled completion of her term in May. The Parliament quickly approved the nomination of Justice Minister Onalsyn Zhumabekov as her replacement. A day later, the Presidential administration announced Baliyeva's appointment as Minister of Justice. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Zagipa Yakhyanova Baliyeva (nee Iskakova), 46, has served on Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission since 1995 and has chaired it since 1996. She administered the 1999 presidential election and parliamentary elections, as well as the September 2004 elections to the lower house of parliament. Baliyeva presided over the modernization of the country's electoral system, most notably the introduction of electronic voting in 2004. While some mechanisms of election management improved during her tenure, the OSCE has consistently found that elections in Kazakhstan do not meet international standards. Baliyeva has not taken this criticism well, and has harshly criticized the OSCE for a lack of objectivity.
3. (SBU) Baliyeva is a lawyer by training. Her legal practice consisted mostly of advising regional-level government structures in the Kazakh SSR during the Soviet period, as well as in the Almaty city administration following independence.
4. (SBU) Onalysn Islamovich Zhumabekov, 56, was appointed Minister of Justice in February 2003 after a long career in the Procuracy of the Kazakh SSR and the Republic of Kazakhstan. While certainly loyal to President Nazarbayev, his reputation among lawyers in Kazakhstan is enhanced by the perception that he is not associated with a particular elite political clique. During his tenure, the Justice Ministry has broadened its competence and influence, gaining control of the judiciary, the prison system and the power to review every single piece of legislation originating in the Government, as well as all international agreements. As Justice Minister, Zhumabekov was a reasonable, relatively open-minded interlocutor for the USG. Though it has taken time and close engagement, the Ministry has for example become very cooperative in addressing U.S. concerns about trafficking in persons. At the same time, concerns have been raised over several recent initiatives to combat extremism, which appear to be susceptible to abuse by the authorities.
5. (SBU) The Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament) overwhelmingly accepted Zhumabekov's nomination. Only one member, Kazakh nationalist Amengeldy Aitaly, raised any objection, insisting that Zhumabekov account for his activities after the December 1986 mass protest in Almaty. At the time, Zhumabekov was the deputy prosecutor of the Almaty region. He responded that the Almaty city authorities and the internal affairs authorities, not his office, were responsible for any repressions that took place after the disturbance.
6. (SBU) Baliyeva's departure did not come as a surprise. She had served nearly ten years in the same job and her term was due to end in May. Baliyeva seems not to have wanted to continue in the chairmanship through the 2006 presidential election. Given her often difficult relations with international observers, the GOK probably calculates that a new face at the CEC can only help its standing. Zhumabekov may be that face, but he is also strongly associated with the disappointing series of amendments to the election laws recently approved by Parliament. Notably, Zhumabekov reportedly declined to confirm the time of the next Presidential election when questioned by the press after his appointment. The GOK has repeatedly stated that the presidential election will not be held until December 2006, nearly eight years after the previous election, even though the Kazakhstani constitution sets the President's term at seven years.