Classified By: CDA MARK ASQUINO, Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)
1. (C) SUMMARY: Nurbulat Masanov, a well-known human rights activist and political commentator, will forego his role as expert analyst at a discussion club to head an institute on ethnology created for him by the presidential administration. In accepting the new position, Masanov agreed to refrain from criticizing the president in the run-up to December's presidential elections. Masanov predicted that the administration would likely interfere in the electoral process, because they need to maintain the administrative mechanism of fraud for the future, when the competition might be closer and they would need to fix the results. Silencing Masanov's analysis and commentary during the campaign period is a loss both to the opposition, as well as to the public trying to make informed decisions about whom to support for president. END SUMMARY.
AN OFFER HE COULDN'T REFUSE
2. (C) Nurbulat Masanov, the deputy general director of the Polyton Discussion Club and well-known human rights activist, told emboff September 8 that Marat Tazhin, deputy head of the Presidential Administration, offered him a paid position to head an institute on ethnography with 50 staff and researchers in Almaty. In accepting the offer, Masanov had to agree to refrain from criticizing the president in the run-up to December's presidential elections. Masanov will stay on at Polyton as a moderator of discussions, calling on participants, but he will no longer offer his throught-provoking, insightful critiques of both the opposition and the administration on a broad array of social and political issues. At their meeting Tazhin asked Masanov what he would trade for his position as the club's deputy director. Masanov is an academic by profession, and has devoted his life to the study of ethnology. He told Tazhin he had been blacklisted, and was unable to get a teaching position at any of the universities in Kazakhstan. (Note: According to "Who's Who In Kazakhstan," he was a professor at Kazakh State University until 1998.) Tazhin then asked him, "Well, what if you had your own institute?" It was an offer Masanov could not refuse. Tazhin must have been confident of the answer, because the administration has already identified a building to house the institute.
3. (C) Masanov was pleased with the unexpected development in his academic career and unapologetic about his decision to accept the administration's offer. He did, however, want to explain how he made the decision to embassy representatives, who attend the Polyton discussions and have supported Polyton's applications for National Endowment for Democracy grants. Although Masanov did not say what salary Tazhin offered, other sources said he took the position to support his family. His modest salary as the club's deputy director was covered in the NED grant.
2005 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: FRAUD AS USUAL
4. (C) Masanov said that the presidential elections in December will be conducted fraudulently as usual, and will not be open, fair or transparent as Nazarbayev and his team have promised. He said the administration would still take measures to fix the results for Nazarbayev, because they needed to maintain the system of electoral fraud for the future. Fair elections would set a precedent that Kazakhstanis would demand in all subsequent contests, and Nazarbayev was not ready for a true commitment to clean elections.
AN ETHNOLOGIST'S TAKE ON NAZARBAYEV
5. (C) Masanov's passion is the study of 'kochevniki,' the nomads of Kazakhstan, and he has written several books and over 200 scholarly articles on the subject. As an ethnologist, he analyzes local politics through the prism of Kazakh nomadic customs and characteristics. Masanov said Nazarbayev engaged in politics like a canny nomadic horse trader, and made separate deals with disparate and sometimes conflicting partners, but always with the aim of securing his own objective. He cited the maneuvering on the BTC pipeline as an example. Nazarbayev appeared at the opening in May with U.S. Secretary of Energy Bodeman and the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. However, Nazarbayev made no formal commitments at the gathering in deference to Russia, E
which continues to view the pipeline as a threat to its own oil pipelines. He said Nazarbayev would eventually sign, but in his own time.
6. (C) As for how Nazarbayev might view his place in history, Masanov said Nazarbayev considered himself the founder of the first state of Kazakhstan. He was determined to secure Kazakhstan's place on the international stage and in world history. Masanov said all Nazarbayev's decisions and actions as president were taken with the goal of making Kazakhstan a force to be reckoned with among other world powers: fostering a democratic society is not part of his vision. Securing the OSCE chairmanship, however, is very important for Nazarbayev, he said, because the chairmanship would not only secure Kazakhstan's standing in the international community, but also would show Kazakhstan's superiority over all other former Soviet republics and Russia.
OPPOSITION'S LOSS, ADMINISTRATION'S GAIN
7. (C) Some observers say that the opposition should have recognized Masanov's value and paid him a salary for acting as Polyton's moderator and analyst. Based on his comments about the oppostion, Masanov may have made his decision after being snubbed by "For a Just Kazakhstan" leader Zharmakhan Tuyakbay. Masanov said he acted in the past as an advisor to Ak Zhol chairman Alikhan Baimenov. Tuyakbay approached Masaonov about a similar role in FJK, but then never developed a working relationship with him.
8. (C) COMMENT: The GOK's apparent "buying-off" of Masanov will silence an astute analyst who has provided incisive commentary on political issues and personalities. Losing Masaonov's perspective as Polyton's moderator during this crucial campaign period will be a great loss to the opposition. In addition, it will be a loss to voters seeking alternate points of view to those provided by the GOK's media spin-machines in the lead-up to the December presidential election.