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2005-11-09 21:12:00
US Office Almaty
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L  ALMATY 004029 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2015

Classified By: Ambassador John Ordway for reasons 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (U) This is a joint Embassy Almaty-USOSCE cable.

2. (C) Summary: USOSCE Ambassador Finley and Ambassador
Ordway met with opposition, civil society and youth group
representatives and government officials October 25-28 to
discuss progress on democratic reforms, the upcoming
presidential election, and Kazakhstan's bid for the 2009 OSCE
chairmanship. We heard complaints about pre-electoral
crackdowns on opposition papers and the stifling government
control of the media, and concerns that local authorities
will falsify votes in favor of President Nazarbayev to curry
favor. Government officials took on board our message that
the U.S. will be watching closely developments pre-and
post-December, and that a free and fair election, including
equitable media access for candidates, is a good first step
in a series of sustained democratic reforms needed for
Kazakhstan to prove that it deserves to hold the OSCE chair
in the future. End summary.

Media Access Still a Problem for Opposition


3. (C) USOSCE Ambassador Finley traveled to Kazakhstan
October 25-28 to meet with representatives from the GOKZ and
with members of opposition parties, youth groups and local
NGOs. She was accompanied to her meetings by Ambassador
Ordway and poloffs from USOSCE, Embassy Almaty and the
Embassy Branch Office in Astana. During the visit, we were
informed that the election commission officials continued to
order the confiscation of the opposition newspaper "Svoboda
Slova." (Comment: The first confiscation order, October 19,
alleged that the paper had insulted President Nazarbayev by
depicting him as a dictator and had engaged in "active
campaigning" before the campaign period officially started
October 25, by prominently featuring opposition candidates.
End comment.) Zharmakhan Tuyakbay, the opposition candidate
representing "For a Just Kazakhstan," told the Ambassador
that the opposition still has only minimal coverage in both
the state-owned and private media, and that the OSCE can help
further the democratization process in Kazakhstan by
maintaining a spotlight on the GOK in the run-up to the
election. Tuyakbay commented that the presence of the OSCE
election monitors will help to exert continued pressure on
President Nazarbayev to run a cleaner election. Opposition
"Ak Zhol" party leader Alikhan Baymenov also told us that the
new electronic voting system being implemented in some voting
stations may be problematic as some voters are being
intimidated into using the new and unfamiliar system by being
told "We'll know if you didn't use it." Youth groups and
NGOs also complained to us about harassment by the

authorities for unauthorized gatherings. (Comment: In fact,
one of our interlocutors was late to our meeting because she
had just been arrested and charged for this offense, but was
released after paying a fine. End comment.)

Keeping the Akims Under Control


4. (C) In addition to securing access to the media for
opposition candidates, a top concern of the opposition and of
youth groups and NGOs in particular is the penchant of local
authorities ("akims") to prove their loyalty to President
Nazarbayev by delivering up as many votes as possible,
whether through the use of administrative resources or fraud.
The akims reportedly compete amongst themselves to produce
the most votes in favor of Nazarbayev, and are difficult to
control, we were told.

5. (C) The opposition, youth group and NGO reps were sheepish
when asked if they thought the election would be free and
fair, adding that the final numbers would show just how much
latitude the akims had been given. Baymenov declared that if
the election were really free and fair, there would be a
run-off between Nazarbayev (who he estimated would receive
40% of the vote) and Baymenov (with an estimated 30-35%).
Everyone agreed that a voting percentage for Nazarbayev much
beyond 65% would mean that the akims had "over-fulfilled" the
plan, and expressed hope that the ODIHR election monitors'
presence would help to prevent the more blatant election
fraud. (Comment: Post believes 65-75% is a realistic range,
given polling data. End comment.)

Clean Election, Democratic Reforms Needed before CiO



6. (C) The view from official Astana was, predictably,
rosier, as GOK reps described their government's
democratization strategy and outlined how far the country has

progressed since gaining independence 15 years ago.
Ambassador Finley delivered to our interlocutors the message
that the U.S. will be watching for a free and fair
presidential election, which includes the pre-December
period. It is important for the GOK to even the media
playing field for all presidential candidates: resorting to
measures such as confiscating issues of "Svoboda Slova" only
sends a message of desperation and fear on the part of the
government. The GOK is in a strong position to run a clean
election, and the local akims should receive a clear message
from President Nazarbayev that vote tampering will not be
tolerated. While President Nazarbayev has implemented
significant economic reforms, political reforms are equally
important and Kazakhstan needs to demonstrate a sustained
commitment to democratic principles if it wants to be a
serious candidate for the OSCE chairmanship in the future.
The international community wants Kazakhstan to succeed, but
it is premature to discuss the CiO question now, particularly
given the reform-heavy agenda for the December OSCE
ministerial in Ljubljana.

FM Tokayev on the CiO Bid


7. (C) FM Tokayev said he understood our message about the
CiO bid, adding that the bid is tied to a strong desire by
Kazakhstan to be associated with European values and
institutions. Kazakhstan has concerns about regional
security, given its geographic location between Russia and
China, and "problem areas" to the south, and realizes that
democracy is its future. Repeating a message that we have
heard in Vienna, Tokayev said that holding the CiO seat would
encourage Kazakhstan to continue on its path of democratic
reform. (Comment: Our message in Astana as well as in
Vienna continues to be that the CiO cannot be used as an
inducement to meet OSCE commitments; there must be a proven
track record on those commitments before a CiO bid can even
be considered. End comment.) When pressed by Ambassador
Finley, Tokayev admitted that there would be no serious
backlash if Kazakhstan did not succeed in its bid for the CiO
for 2009, but underscored that it would create frustration
and would be seen as a lack of confidence in Kazakhstan by
the international community. Nevertheless, even with a
failed CiO bid, the GOKZ will continue with democratic
reforms (although Tokayev added that a stint as the CiO could
help Kazakhstan to speed up the pace of those reforms).

The GOK's Democratization Strategy


8. (C) Presidential Administration Head Dzhaksybekov asserted
that economic reform in Kazakhstan has been a necessary
precursor to political reform. While there has been
significant progress on the democratization front -- with an
elected president and parliament, an independent judiciary,
independent newspapers -- the GOK wants to deepen reforms.
Presidential Administration Deputy Tazhin added that
Nazarbayev's democratization strategy includes further
enhancing the authority of parliament; increasing political
party activity and using a mix of proportional and direct
election representation; encouraging NGO activity (he
estimated that only 1,500 of the 5,000 NGOs are currently
active); strengthening public control of local government
institutions and fighting regional corruption; and developing
independent mass media, including public television.
Regarding the current election, Dzhaksybekov said that the
government targets the opposition only when it violates
election laws (such as campaigning prior to the official
start of the campaign, or holding unauthorized rallies).
Tazhin added that the opposition shouldn't complain about
lack of access to the media, since the opposition print media
circulation is estimated at 770,000 daily, while official
papers have a circulation of 200,000. As for
government-controlled television channels, he said that they
will provide equitable access to all presidential candidates
during the campaign period. While Tazhin acknowledged that
the Rose and Orange revolutions contained positive elements,
Kazakhstan does not seek a "forced change" of the elite.
Kazakhstan's electoral environment, with a registered and
competitive opposition, is more favorable than that of Russia
or Uzbekistan, he concluded.

Steps to Ensure a Free and Fair Election


9. (C) Security Council Chairman Utemuratov, who told us he
maintains close contact and friendships with opposition
leaders, said that the GOK understood Secretary Rice's
message that the U.S. is a strategic partner and that
Kazakhstan should hold a free and fair election. Utemuratov

said that President Nazarbayev instructed him to tour the
electoral regions and meet with akims to deliver the message
that the GOK is committed to holding an election that meets
international standards and that falsifications of vote
counts will be severely punished. "The President doesn't
need 98% of the vote. The opposition is estimating he will
get 65%, and that is enough," Utemuratov said. Utemuratov
added that he told opposition parties to go to the akims
directly to ask what instructions they have received from the
GOK. Central Election Commission Chairman Zhumabekov
reiterated Utemuratov's points. After two regions had
reportedly denied access to premises by opposition
candidates, Zhumabekov said the CEC would be sending letters
that day to remind the akims of the rules on equitable
access. While Zhumabekov acknowledged that there had been
flaws in the September 2004 parliamentary elections, he saw
no major trouble ahead for the December election and
underscored the CEC's commitment to cooperate fully with
ODIHR's election monitors ("We see them as partners in this
process," he said.) The CEC is also involved in monitoring
candidate campaign accounts (there is a cap of $2 million on
campaign spending) and equitable media access for candidates.
Regarding the concerns expressed to us by NGOs about the
electronic voting system, Zhumabekov said that there will be
e-voting in 15% of the precincts but added that all voters
will still have the option to use a paper ballot if desired.

10. (C) Utemuratov admitted that there is still much progress
to be made on democratic reforms. President Nazarbayev
understands that he must share power with other branches of
government, he said. However, as Senate Chairman Abykayev
told us, political reform cannot catch up with economic
reform overnight. This election will be a test of the
country's maturity, Abykayev concluded.



11. (C) While our GOK interlocutors said all the right things
about the need to ensure an election that meets international
standards and to continue on the path of democratic reform,
it is clear that President Nazarbayev's approach to pursuing
democratic principles is rooted in the local context.
Nevertheless, in terms of proving that Kazakstan is on a
serious path to democratic reform, the GOK appears to
recognize that a lot is riding on this election and the
progress it makes toward meeting its OSCE commitments in the
next 12-14 months. While GOK reps continue to insist that
chairing the OSCE in 2009 will represent a critical vote of
support by the international community for progress made and
provide backing for future steps forward, we have been clear
that promises of democratic reform must be matched by
demonstrated, sustained results.