07ASTANA605, KAZAKHSTAN: BOUCHER DISCUSSES POLITICAL REFORM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA605 2007-03-07 05:18 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO7840
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHTA #0605/01 0660518
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 070518Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8686
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY 0054
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8687

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ASTANA 000605 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SCA/FCO (CHAYDEN), SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA) 
STATE FOR DRL/PHD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2017 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: BOUCHER DISCUSSES POLITICAL REFORM 
WITH THE OPPOSITION 
 
REF: A. ASTANA 515 B. 06 ASTANA 121 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR ORDWAY FOR REASONS 1.5 (b) AND (d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  Kazakhstani opposition leaders told 
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs 
Richard Boucher that President Nazarbayev,s recent 
statements regarding political reform do not reflect actual 
political will for change.  They see the proposals as an 
effort to create the appearance of reform and bolster 
Kazakhstan,s candidacy to chair the Organization for 
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), without diluting 
the power of the president or addressing the most serious 
deficiencies of the current system.  Former Nazarbayev 
confidante Zharmakhan Tuyakbay believes any change to the 
structure of parliament will trigger early elections, while 
younger opposition leaders believe that such a scenario is 
likely only if Kazakhstan is chosen to head the OSCE.  While 
some believe that it would be pointless to pursue judicial 
reform absent broader political liberalization, Tuyakbay has 
several ideas to improve the system.  Opposition leaders 
unanimously see the monopolization of the electronic media by 
the Kazakhstani elite as the single greatest obstacle to 
political development, and also believe that official Russian 
propaganda is responsible for rising anti-Western and 
anti-U.S. sentiment.  They repeated their call for the U.S. 
government to support independent satellite television in the 
region.  Fall elections for local legislative bodies will be 
an important measure of the Kazakhstani government,s 
willingness to undertake real reform, and therefore its 
readiness to lead the OSCE, according to the opposition. 
Tuyakbay, who now supports the chairmanship bid in the belief 
that it will spur reform, told the Assistant Secretary that 
his National Social Democratic Party will work for change 
from within the system.  End summary. 
 
2. (U) During his February 26-28 visit to Astana, Kazakhstan, 
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs 
Richard Boucher held a digital video conference with 
representatives of the opposition based in Almaty.  True Ak 
Zhol co-chairmen Bulat Abilov, Oraz Zhandosov, and Tulegen 
Zhukeyev, as well as Civil Society Fund chairman Galymzhan 
Zhakiyanov, participated.  Assistant Secretary Boucher also 
met with Zharmakhan Tuyakbay, chairman of the 
newly-registered National Social Democratic Party, in Astana. 
 Ambassador Ordway, Caitlin Hayden, Pol-Econ chief 
(notetaker), and Aleksey Radovskiy (interpreter) also 
participated in the meetings. 
 
------------------------- 
Prospects for Reform 
------------------------- 
 
 3. (SBU) Although the main opposition parties issued a joint 
statement cautiously welcoming the reform ideas that 
President Nazarbayev put forward at the February 19 
Democratization Commission session (Ref A), Assistant 
Secretary Boucher,s interlocutors were uniformly pessimistic 
 
SIPDIS 
about the level of political will for real change.  Abilov 
asserted that the entire Democratization Commission process 
had been nothing more than an effort to give the appearance 
of dialogue with society, in the absence of a legitimate and 
representative parliament where such debate should take 
place.  &If Nazarbayev really wants reform,8 Abilov said, 
&he knows what to do ) he doesn,t need a commission to 
come up with ideas.8  The proposals Nazarbayev raised on 
February 19 are secondary issues that do not touch on the 
fundamental problems such as Kazakhstan,s flawed electoral 
legislation, control of mass media by the elite, and 
restrictions on freedom of assembly, Abilov said. 
 
4. (SBU)  Tuyakbay expressed much the same sentiment, 
describing Nazarbayev,s February 19 proposals as steps to 
&soften8 the system around the edges rather than in-depth 
reforms.  Tuyakbay told Boucher that it was possible to 
liberalize the Kazakhstani political system without changing 
the constitution; the key, he said, was a new electoral law 
and concrete steps to ensure good elections by preventing the 
use of administrative resources and the falsification of 
results.  He was disappointed in President Nazarbayev,s 
failure to utter &a single word8 about these issues. 
 
------------------- 
Early Elections? 
------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) Zhakiyanov predicted that even if the coming 
political reforms changed the structure of the parliament, 
 
ASTANA 00000605  002 OF 004 
 
 
President Nazarbayev would be unlikely to call early 
parliamentary elections. &He does not need them at the 
moment,8 Zhakiyanov said; recent  mergers among 
pro-presidential parties were merely &artificial agitation8 
designed to give the impression of political change. 
Zhakiyanov predicted that if Kazakhstan is chosen to chair 
the OSCE in 2009, however, Nazarbayev would hold early 
Mazhilis elections in order to avoid the increased 
international scrutiny that would accomp
any the chairmanship 
year. 
 
6. (C) Tuyakbay minimized the significance of the 
parliamentary reforms that President Nazarbayev had 
suggested, claiming that expanding the power of party 
fractions would have no influence on the decision-making 
process.  Even giving the parliamentary majority the right to 
form the government was just &empty talk8 in the current 
context of one-party rule, he said.  In contrast to 
Zhakiyanov, however, Tuyakbay believes that there is a &90% 
chance8 that Nazarbayev will call early parliamentary 
elections if the reform process changes the structure of the 
parliament.  Tuyakbay said that people in Nazarbayev,s inner 
circle were already talking about this.  Noting that he had 
known Nazarbayev well for 25 years, the opposition leader 
said &he,s an emotional person ) when he has an idea, he 
wants to implement it quickly.8  Changing the constitution 
and holding early elections would be intended as a &signal 
to the West8 that Kazakhstan is ready to chair the OSCE. 
Tuyakbay pointed to recent mergers of pro-presidential 
parties as evidence of such a plan. 
 
------------------- 
Judicial Reform 
------------------- 
 
7. (SBU)  In response to Assistant Secretary Boucher,s 
question about the independence of the judiciary in 
Kazakhstan, Abilov and Zhakiyanov argued that real change 
would not be possible without broader political reform.  In 
particular, Abilov said that it would be impossible to root 
out corruption in the judiciary without liberalization of the 
system.  Problems stemmed both from the power of the 
executive branch over the judiciary, and the prevalence of 
bribery. 
 
8. (SBU) Tuyakbay, who served as Procurator General from 1990 
to 1995, suggested concrete steps that should be taken to 
decrease the dependence of the judiciary on the executive 
branch.   He would like the parliament to choose the members 
of the Supreme Court from a nationwide pool of candidates; 
any citizen with the necessary education and experience could 
submit an application.  Tuyakbay also called for the lowest 
level of judges to be directly elected by the public, with 
appropriate screening for qualifications. 
 
--------------- 
Mass Media 
--------------- 
 
9. (SBU) Asked about the situation with mass media in 
Kazakhstan, Zhandosov informed Assistant Secretary Boucher 
that Rakhat Aliyev and Dariga Nazarbayeva had finally 
admitted that they own several television stations and other 
media outlets.  They had denied this for eight years, even 
suing people who claimed that they controlled media outlets. 
Zhandosov noted with wry humor that they claimed to have 
purchased the outlets only in December 2006, but no one was 
stepping forward to say they were the sellers.  Abilov chimed 
in that the Khabar television station had previously been 
registered in the name of Aliyev,s driver. 
 
10.  (SBU) Abilov stressed that the existence of a handful of 
active independent newspapers did not mean that information 
flowed freely in Kazakhstan.  Nazarbayev is a completely 
authoritarian ruler who will not permit the electronic media 
to discuss the problems that really concern the public, he 
said, and local leaders keep tight control over almost all 
print media in the regions.  Tuyakbay estimated the total 
circulation of all independent newspapers at 100,000 or less. 
 
11. (SBU) Zhakiyanov claimed that independent newspapers are 
severely hampered by the lack of revenue, as advertisers are 
&persecuted by the authorities.8   There are no independent 
television stations.  In urban areas, Zhakiyanov explained, 
most people receive cable television, which is controlled by 
the Kazakhstani elite and contains both local and Russian 
channels and certain international channels such as CNN and 
Euronews.  The Kazakhstani authorities therefore have control 
 
ASTANA 00000605  003 OF 004 
 
 
of the flow of news in the cities.  In rural areas, most 
people receive satellite television from Russian satellites 
such as Yamal and Yamal 2, which in turn are controlled by 
Gazprom.  &It is not in the Kremlin,s interest to permit 
the broadcast of alternative views in Kazakhstan,8 
Zhakiyanov observed.  Zhukeyev referred to a recent poll 
conducted in Russia which showed that 70% of Russians hold 
anti-Western or anti-U.S. views, which he attributed to 
official Russian propaganda transmitted via television. 
 
12. (C) Both Zhakiyanov and Tuyakbay reiterated their earlier 
calls for the U.S. government to help establish an 
independent satellite network for the region (Ref B). 
Assistant Secretary Boucher noted that such a complex and 
expensive undertaking would have to be done on a commercial 
basis in order to succeed. 
 
------------------------------- 
2007 Maslikhat Elections 
------------------------------- 
 
13. (SBU) Zhandosov called Assistant Secretary Boucher,s 
attention to fall 2007 elections for regional maslikhats 
(legislative bodies), which he described as an important 
window into the Kazakhstani government,s attitude toward the 
OSCE chairmanship.  Although maslikhats are not as powerful 
as local legislatures in &normal8 democracies, Zhandosov 
noted, they do have influence over issues such as local 
budgets.  Because the members are elected directly, fair 
elections would provide a clear picture of what the populace 
actually thinks of the Kazakhstani government,s policies. 
Zhandosov warned that if the electoral law is not fixed in 
time, there will be serious falsifications and other 
violations in the local elections. 
 
14. (SBU) Tuyakbay placed less emphasis on the maslikhats, 
claiming that in their current form they were purely 
&decorative8 bodies.  In his opinion their only significant 
role is the formation of local election commissions.  In a 
separate conversation with poloff, Tuyakbay said that his 
party would nevertheless support maslikhat candidates and 
viewed the conduct of the elections as an important sign of 
the Kazakhstani government,s willingness to undertake 
serious reforms. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
Kazakhstan,s Bid to Chair the OSCE 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
15. (C)  Abilov cautioned Assistant Secretary Boucher not to 
forget President Nazarbayev,s &Soviet8 background. 
Everything Nazarbayev says about wanting to chair the OSCE 
and democratize is merely a &sophisticated policy aimed at 
the U.S.8 rather than a true reflection of his goals and 
plans. 
 
16. (SBU) Tuyakbay said that his opinion on the OSCE 
chairmanship bid had evolved.  While at first he had 
categorically opposed it on the grounds that Kazakhstan did 
not meet OSCE standards, he now believes that a rejection of 
Kazakhstan,s bid would have negative consequences for
 the 
domestic political situation, including the strengthening of 
authoritarianism.  He added that Nazarbayev might move closer 
to Russia and China as a result, choosing enhanced 
integration with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and 
allocating Kazakhstan,s energy resources accordingly. 
Should Kazakhstan be selected as the chair, Tuyakbay believes 
that it will take certain positive steps toward democracy. 
 
17. (C) In response to Assistant Secretary Boucher,s 
question, Tuyakbay predicted that as chair of the OSCE 
Kazakhstan would not overstep any boundaries or rules.  It 
could however be expected to lobby for Russian interests on 
OSCE reform.  Fundamentally, Kazakhstan,s desire to lead the 
organization is tied to Nazarbayev,s personal ambitions and 
desire for international respect, Tuyakbay said. 
 
---------------------- 
The Way Forward 
---------------------- 
 
18. (C)  Tuyakbay told Assistant Secretary Boucher that he 
has a clear plan for where he wants to take his National 
Social Democratic party between now and the next presidential 
elections in 2012.  &After the last elections, I concluded 
that strict opposition will not bring any useful results,8 
Tuyakbay said.  The opposition,s weak ability to convey 
information to the public cannot compete with the powerful 
 
ASTANA 00000605  004 OF 004 
 
 
state machine.  It is therefore necessary to find ways to 
work constructively with the authorities, to develop levers 
to influence them, and to demonstrate that his party is 
seeking gradual change rather than revolution.  His goal is 
to win as many maslikhat and parliamentary seats as possible, 
and then work for change from within the system.  Tuyakbay 
said that Nazarbayev told him in September 2006 that he 
believed Kazakhstan needed an opposition movement that would 
criticize the government, on condition that it did not &stir 
up the people.8  Tuyakbay took that to mean that Nazarbayev 
would tolerate any opposition movement that did not represent 
a direct threat to his own power. 
ORDWAY

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