07ASTANA515, KAZAKHSTAN: DEMOCRATIZATION COMMISSION COMPLETES ITS WORK

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA515 2007-02-26 01:19 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO7130
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0515/01 0570119
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 260119Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8588
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0041
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1684
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000515 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA, T. PERRY), DRL/PHD (C. 
KUCHTA-HELBLING) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL OSCE KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: DEMOCRATIZATION COMMISSION COMPLETES ITS WORK 
 
REF: A) 06 Astana 22, B) 06 Astana 27, C) Astana 48 
 
ASTANA 00000515  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: During the final meeting of Kazakhstan's 
Democratization Commission on February 19, President Nursultan 
Nazarbayev accepted many of the democratic reform proposals put 
forward by the Commission's five working groups and announced the 
formation of a new working group designed to mold these proposals 
into specific legislation.  Nazarbayev did not make a clear 
commitment to any specific reform, but signaled that Kazakhstan 
should transfer additional power to the parliament while still 
maintaining a strong presidential system.  In addition, he indicated 
support for increasing the size of the Senate, strengthening the 
role of political parties in elections, and providing state support 
for political parties which gain over 5% of the popular vote in 
parliamentary elections. On February 21, President Nazarbayev 
chaired the first meeting of the working group, which is expected to 
finish its work in three to four months.  End summary. 
 
 
 
-------------------------------- 
THE DIRECTION OF REFORMS TO COME 
-------------------------------- 
 
2.   (SBU)   On February 19, President Nazarbayev chaired the final 
meeting of Kazakhstan's Democratization Commission ("Commission"), 
created amid much fanfare in March 2006 (Refs A, B, C).  At the 
meeting, the president accepted many of the democratic reform 
proposals produced by the various working groups of the Commission 
and announced the formation of yet another working group designed to 
mold these proposals into specific legislation.  The president did 
not make a clear commitment to any specific reform, but offered 
several possibilities and signaled the direction that the working 
group should take as it drafted specific legislation and 
constitutional amendments. 
 
3. (U) The president made it clear that Kazakhstan's fundamental 
constitutional arrangement should not change, and that "everyone 
agrees" that Kazakhstan should remain a presidential republic with a 
strong president. Nevertheless, he declared that parliamentary 
powers should be increased.  Specifically, he proposed that the 
Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) should approve the Prime 
Minister, and should be responsible for the formation of the 
Constitutional Council (which interprets the Kazakhstani 
Constitution) and the Central Election Commission.  In addition, he 
proposed that the Mazhilis should bear full responsibility for 
budget issues, including the formation of the committee charged with 
the annual audit of expenditures. 
 
4. (U) President Nazarbayev also welcomed the idea of increasing the 
size of the Senate.  (Note: The Senate is the upper house of 
parliament, and currently consists of 39 members; seven are 
appointed directly by the president, and 32 are selected through 
indirect elections at the oblast [regional] level.  End note.) He 
indicated support for appointing additional senators from the ranks 
of the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan, a presidentially-selected 
advisory body with members representing all of the various ethnic 
groups in Kazakhstan. 
 
5. (U) President Nazarbayev explicitly rejected the idea of 
increasing the size of the Mazhilis.  Nevertheless, he supported a 
number of electoral reforms which would impact the Mazhilis, 
including a proposal to strengthen the role of political parties in 
the parliamentary election process by increasing the number of 
Mazhilis deputies elected through a party-list system.  (Note: 
Currently, 10 out of the 77 members of the Mazhilis are elected 
through a party-list system, with the remainder elected from 
single-mandate districts. End note.)  Furthermore, he expressed 
support for public financing of political parties which receive over 
5% of the popular vote during parliamentary elections. 
 
6. (U) The president also expressed support for judicial reform and 
modernizing Kazakhstan's judicial system.  However, he did not 
elaborate on specific reform proposals in this sphere, other than to 
note that removing the authority of procurators to issue arrest 
warrants was overdue. 
 
--------------------- 
THE NEW WORKING GROUP 
--------------------- 
 
7. (U) At the final Commission meeting, President Nazarbayev 
announced the formation of a new working group designed to mold 
these proposals into specific legislation and constitutional 
amendments.  The president is chairman of the working group, and 
chaired the first meeting on February 21.  Igor Rogov, chairman of 
 
ASTANA 00000515  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
the Constitutional Council, was appointed deputy chairman. 
According to media reports, the remaining members consist of 
government officials, parliamentarians, and academics.  Ro
gov stated 
that the working group began discussing many of the proposals that 
the president supported at the final Commission meeting, and that 
the group plans to finish its work in three or four months. 
 
---------------------------------- 
EARLY REACTION FROM THE OPPOSITION 
---------------------------------- 
 
8. (U) The final Commission meeting was held with little advance 
notice and little fanfare.  The media reported that several 
Commission members, including opposition leader Zharmakhan Tuyakbay 
and presidential daughter/Mazhilis deputy Dariga Nazarbayeva, were 
unable to fly to Astana for the meeting due to poor weather 
conditions. (Note: Although Tuyakbay had previously refused to 
participate in the Commission, citing concerns such as its 
pro-government composition, he agreed to participate after his party 
was registered. End note.) 
 
9. (U) Tuyakbay's National Social Democratic Party and the True Ak 
Zhol party issued a joint statement describing the potential reforms 
as overly cautious but positive, and noting that many of them stem 
from previous proposals by the democratic opposition.  The two 
parties called on Nazarbayev and his majority Nur-Otan Party to pass 
reforms before the maslikhat (local legislative bodies) elections 
this year.  The parties stated that the president could prove the 
sincerity of his interest in political reform by passing legislation 
to guarantee access to true information about developments in the 
country (by de-monopolizing the television market), protect the 
freedom of assembly, and guarantee the right to vote and run for 
office. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
10. (SBU) Comment:  President Nazarbayev's comments on the work of 
the Democratization Commission provide an encouraging indication of 
the direction of future political reforms.  It will not be possible 
to fully evaluate the significance of these proposals until they 
crystallize into actual legislation and constitutional amendments, 
however.  President Nazarbayev did not discuss key issues such as 
the absence of free and fair elections, difficulties in registering 
political parties, and restrictions on freedom of speech and 
assembly.  It remains to be seen whether the working group will 
address these crucial issues in addition to the tasks that 
Nazarbayev laid out.  On the bright side, President Nazarbayev's 
timetable for implementing reforms is much more ambitious than 
previously expected, with both legislative and constitutional 
changes under consideration by the new working group. Previously, 
the government planned to phase in the reforms over several years, 
with the constitutional changes slated for 2009-2011.  Nazarbayev's 
desire to accelerate the pace is a welcome development, provided 
that the process allows for real dialogue and outside input.  End 
comment. 
 
ORDWAY

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