07ASTANA48, KAZAKHSTAN CONTEMPLATES DEMOCRATIC REFORM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA48 2007-01-08 12:31 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Astana

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTA #0048/01 0081231
ZNY CCCCC ZZH (CCY TEXT - MSI4839 - AD676F05 - 555)
P 081231Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8110
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 2094
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 0410
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2166
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 1665

C O N F I D E N T I A L ASTANA 000048 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA, T. PERRY) 
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y - TEXT 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN CONTEMPLATES DEMOCRATIC REFORM 
 
REF: A. 06 ASTANA 573 
 
     B. 06 ASTANA 585 
     C. 06 ASTANA 712 
     D. 06 ASTANA 22 
     E. 06 ASTANA 27 
 
Classified By: CDA Kevin Milas; reasons 1.4 (B) and (D). 
 
1. (C) Summary:  There is widespread expectation in 
Kazakhstan that President Nazarbayev will announce a package 
of democratic reform proposals early in the new year.  The 
timing and content of the initiative is not yet known, and 
some are skeptical that the proposals will represent 
fundamental changes.  Nevertheless, the work of the 
Democratization Commission has set the stage for wider public 
debate of the need for reform, and has heightened 
expectations that the government will move forward with 
democratization.  The next step forward could come as early 
as mid-January, when Nazarbayev may share his thoughts 
directly with the Democratization Commission.  End summary. 
 
--------------------- 
"Reform" is Coming... 
--------------------- 
 
2. (C) In November, with no prompting, President Nazarbayev 
volunteered to us that Kazakhstan would implement large-scale 
political reforms in 2007.  Speaking at a lunch following the 
November 14 dedication of the new embassy building, 
Nazarbayev explained that he had felt the need to complete 
the tasks of building the state structure and creating a 
strong economy before changing the political system.  Now 
that those two tasks have been completed, he said, it was 
time to move forward with reform of the political system (Ref 
A). 
 
3. (C) Observers of the political situation, regardless of 
party affiliation, appear to believe that a major 
announcement is coming early in 2007.  Opposition leader 
Bulat Abilov, co-chairman of the True Ak Zhol party, is 
factoring the expected announcements into his strategy as he 
fights criminal charges for his business dealings in the 
1990s (Ref B).   He told us that the government is less 
likely to pursue him aggressively if the trial coincides with 
an effort to trumpet political reform.  Likewise, failed 
opposition presidential candidate Zharmakhan Tuyakbay 
believes that a reform effort will begin in 2007, although he 
expects the results to be "minimal" (Ref C). 
 
4. (C) Numerous contacts in the Kazakhstani government have 
told us to expect movement on the democratic reform front in 
2007.  Perhaps most intriguingly, Deputy Prime Minister Karim 
Masimov told the Ambassador on November 17 that he know 
exactly what President Nazarbayev had in mind but could not 
discuss the specifics as he had been sworn to secrecy.  In a 
similar vein, Presidential Administration head Adylbek 
Dzhaksybekov told the Ambassador on December 1 that a 
constitutional convention would be held in the new year to 
examine proposed changes to the political system, but did not 
provide specifics. 
 
-------------------- 
...But When and How? 
-------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) President Nazarbayev is widely expected to use the 
next meeting of the State Commission on Democratization to 
outline his thinking on democratic reform.  The deputy 
director of the OSCE Centre told us that a highly-placed 
individual in the Presidential Administration had said that 
the session would take place the week of January 15.  There 
has been no official announcement, however. 
 
6. (SBU) Participants in the Democratization Commission 
provide significantly different descriptions of the work of 
the organization and its likely impact on the reform process. 
 In a December 5 meeting with the Ambassador, State Secretary 
Oralbay Abdykarimov said that the Commission is considering 
two stages of proposals:  reforms not involving changes to 
the constitution in 2007-2008, and reforms requiring 
constitutional changes from 2009-2011.  Abdykarimov, who runs 
the Democratization Commission on a day-to-day basis, said 
that President Nazarbayev would share his vision of reform at 
the next meeting of the Commission (likely in January).  The 
Commission would then move forward with specific reform 
proposals based on the recommendations of its various working 
groups.  (See Refs D and E for details on structure and goals 
of the Commission.) 
 
7. (SBU) Although Abdykarimov did not describe the expected 
proposals in detail, he noted that changes will be made to 
parliamentary powers and the electoral process.  The most 
contentious issue facing the Commission is in his view the 
question of transferring additional authority to the 
parliament and increasing its power relative to the 
presidency.  Abdykarimov commented that any effort to change 
the existing presidential form of government would likely &#
x000A;provoke dispute.  He added that the Commission is also 
considering increasing the number of deputies elected from 
party lists as opposed to single mandate districts; 
decreasing the number of signatures needed to register a 
party from 50,000 to 25,000; and modifying the roles of 
maslikhats (local legislatures).  Abdykarimov also singled 
out the need to strengthen the independence of the judiciary 
and to enhance the separation of powers between courts and 
procurators.  He predicted that the Commission would 
"resolve" the issue of procurators having the power to 
sanction arrests during the 2007-2008 phase of reforms. 
 
8. (C) In a November 21 conversation with the Ambassador, Ak 
Zhol leader Alikhan Baymenov, who heads the working group on 
constitutional reform, painted a much less rosy view of the 
workings of the Democratization Commission.  Baymenov 
complained that the proposals of the working groups were 
being forwarded to the Presidential Administration, likely to 
deputy head Maulen Ashimbayev, for review before being 
accepted.  Only the "mildest" suggestions were being included 
in the document that would be forwarded to President 
Nazarbayev for consideration.  Baymenov said that he had made 
a strong pitch to Abdykarimov that all the proposals, even 
those requiring constitutional amendments, should be 
presented to Nazarbayev at the same time. 
 
9. (C) Abdykarimov was holding the line against presenting to 
Nazarbayev any proposals that required changes to the 
constitution, however.  Baymenov predicted that Presidential 
Administration head Adylbek Dzhaksybekov and Security Council 
chair Murat Tazhin would have a large say in the final 
product that would be presented to Nazarbayev.  Foreign 
Minister Tokayev might also have some input, given his 
understanding of Western views, but would be unlikely to push 
for any bold changes.  Baymenov told the Ambassador that the 
reform process might become an area of competition for the 
business groups behind each of the most influential people in 
government, many of them flush with cash from recent London 
IPOs and preparing for the "next stage of battle" for assets 
and influence. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
10. (C) Comment:  Kazakhstani authorities seem eager to give 
the impression that an organic, inclusive dialogue with civil 
society is underway in the Democratization Commission, which 
will lead to a package of reform proposals for President 
Nazarbayev's consideration.  The truth is somewhat less 
heartening; most international observers and even many 
Democratization Commission participants view the process as 
window dressing designed to convey the impression of 
dialogue.  Nonetheless, the Commission has heightened public 
awareness of the need for further political reform, and has 
placed fundamental questions like the balance of power 
between the executive and legislative branches on the table 
for public discussion for the first time.  While the 
Commission's proposals may not form the core of President 
Nazarbayev's widely expected reform initiative in 2007, the 
process has heightened expectations and the onus on the 
government to put forward a substantive reform package.  Post 
does not expect the government reshuffle announced on January 
8 to derail the process, as the dialogue is being managed by 
the Presidential Administration.  End comment. 
MILAS

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