06ASTANA395, KAZAKHSTAN CONDUCTS LOCAL “ELECTIONS”

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06ASTANA395 2006-11-02 03:47 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO6958
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0395/01 3060347
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020347Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7501
INFO RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000395 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN CONDUCTS LOCAL "ELECTIONS" 
 
REF: Almaty 1095 
 
ASTANA 00000395  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: On October 20, Kazakhstan held local elections for 
30% of the country's district and city level akims (mayors/county 
executives).  The elections were conducted as part of the 
government's program to promote democratization.  As the electoral 
process was tightly controlled by the government and did not involve 
direct participation by the voters, the process represented at most 
an incremental step toward true reform.  End summary. 
 
------------------ 
THE ELECTION RULES 
------------------ 
 
2. (U) On June 6, President Nazarbayev issued a decree establishing 
the election of 30% of district and city level akims for four-year 
terms.  The decree was prompted by recommendations of the State 
Commission on Elaboration and Specification of the Program of 
Democratic Reforms (Democratization Commission) (reftel).  The 
Central Elections Committee (CEC) thereafter scheduled the elections 
for October 20, and issued a list of 49 districts and 10 cities that 
would conduct elections on that date. According to CEC chairman 
Onalsyn Zhumabekov, elections may be held in 2007 for the remaining 
70% of district and city level akims. 
 
3. (U) According to the rules established by the CEC, only 
regional-level akims (governors) could nominate candidates for the 
local akim positions.  (Note: regional akims are directly appointed 
by the president.  End note.).  However, the regional akims were 
obligated to nominate at least two candidates for each position. 
Candidates were required to live in the region, be at least 25 years 
old, file declarations of income and property, and otherwise meet 
all the requirements of a political government employee. 
 
-------------- 
THE CANDIDATES 
-------------- 
 
4. (U) From September 5-19, the regional akims nominated candidates 
for the 59 positions.  The candidates were then required to register 
with local election commissions.  Of the 148 candidates nominated by 
regional akims, 142 were ultimately registered by the local election 
commissions.  According to the CEC, the average age of the 
candidates was 48.  All of the candidates had a higher education, 
and the field included engineers, agrarians, veterinarians, 
teachers, economists, lawyers, doctors, and other specialists.  Five 
of the candidates were women.  48 of the candidates were incumbent 
local akims, 23 were deputy akims, 12 were lower-level government 
executives in rural settlements, 45 were employees of state-owned 
companies or government institutions, and 14 were from 
non-governmental institutions. 
 
5. (U) Although complete figures were not available, the vast 
majority of candidates were members of President Nazarbayev's Otan 
Party.  The Republican Network of Independent Monitors (RNIM), a 
local NGO involved in election monitoring, sent observers to a 
portion of the regions conducting elections.  According to RNIM, 74 
of the 88 candidates in these regions were members of the Otan 
Party, one was a member of the Auyl Party, and the rest were 
unaffiliated.  During the nomination process, Bakhytzhan Zhumagulov, 
the acting chairman of the Otan Party, said that his party made 
recommendations to the regional akims on the nomination of 
candidates.  According to Zhumagulov, regional akims heeded this 
advice on at least three occasions in which the incumbent akim was 
not nominated. 
 
----------- 
THE RESULTS 
----------- 
 
6.  (U) The winners were then chosen by a vote of the appropriate 
local maslikhat (Note: maslikhats are locally elected legislatures; 
the last maslikhat elections were held on September 20, 2003.  End 
note.).  Candidates needed to receive over 50% of the votes to win. 
The post-registration campaign process was not widely publicized, 
though candidates campaigned by holding meetings with maslikhat 
members.  For example, Poloff met with central election committee 
officials in the western city of Atyrau and observed campaign 
posters produced by candidates for one of the local akim positions. 
The election committee officials informed Poloff that the candidates 
held a series of public meetings with maslikhat members to discuss 
issues in the community. 
 
7. (U)   Seven of the 142 candidates dropped out of the process 
before election day, including three incumbent akims.  Of the 45 
incumbent akims who stood for election, 39 won.  The RNIM and the 
CEC reported that the elections were conducted without any major 
procedural violations. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
ASTANA 00000395  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
ANALYSIS BY OPPOSITION LEADERS, NGOS, AND THE GOVERNMENT 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
8. (SBU) Prior to the voting, opposition leaders such as Zharmakhan 
Tuyakbay and Galymzhan Zhakiyanov criticized the process, and said 
that the elections were not really elections at all because the 
presidentially-appointed regional akims
 had the exclusive power to 
select candidates, and the voters had no direct role to play. In a 
meeting with Poloff  prior to the election, OSCE Deputy Head of 
Center Bjorn Halvarsson explained that the OSCE did not acknowledge 
the event as an election and would give little attention to the 
process, for the same reasons expressed by Tuyakbay and Zhakiyanov. 
The RNIM similarly criticized the lack of real alternatives for 
voters and the inability of citizens to nominate themselves for 
office. 
 
9. (U) Noted political analyst Dosym Satpayev asserted in a recent 
interview in Respublika weekly that everybody in and outside of 
Kazakhstan understands that the elections were an imitation of real 
reform, and warned that the imitation of democratic and political 
reforms was in danger of becoming the national strategy. 
 
10. (U) The government defended the process as offering a smooth and 
gradual transition to a system of local self-government.  President 
Nazarbayev, speaking at the third meeting of the Democratization 
Commission, said that "for the mechanism of direct elections at that 
level to work, appropriate conditions should be developed.  Among 
those are the political culture and maturity of the society.  In 
election of akims, we should exercise a balanced approach.  We 
should not lose control over the government in the regions."  In the 
months prior to the elections, officials such as CEC chairman 
Zhumabekov, acting Otan Party chairman Zhumagulov, and others joined 
in defending the process.  Among other things, they noted that 
maslikhat members are in the best position to select a new akim 
because they are very familiar with the issues in their districts. 
In addition, the elections would serve as a step toward democratic 
reform because they increased the power of the directly-elected 
maslikhats. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
11. (SBU) Comment:  The October 20 selection process for regional 
leaders was not an election in the truest sense of the word.  The 
restrictive election procedures allowed for little discretion by the 
maslikhats, and none by the voters, and was dominated by President 
Nazarbayev's Otan Party.  The elections therefore did not represent 
significant progress toward democratic reform or local 
self-government.  At the most, they signify a small increase in the 
importance of the directly-elected maslikhats and may have served to 
increase public debate about the proper role of voters in choosing 
their leaders.  End comment.

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