07ASTANA1558, KAZAKHSTANI OPPOSITION SHARPLY CRITICAL OF POLITICAL REFORM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1558 2007-06-06 07:51 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO6807
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1558/01 1570751
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 060751Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9700
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0198
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC//SCA COLLECTIVE/ 9701
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1760
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2219
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 001558 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM PREL KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTANI OPPOSITION SHARPLY CRITICAL OF POLITICAL REFORM 
EFFORTS 
 
REF: A. Astana 1323, B. Astana 1357, C. Astana 1469, D. Astana 1466 
 
ASTANA 00001558  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  After initially welcoming the reform proposals 
outlined in President Nazarbayev's May 16 speech, the Kazakhstani 
opposition movement has become sharply critical of the measures 
after analyzing the actual text of the constitutional amendments. 
The last-minute inclusion of a provision exempting Nazarbayev from 
term limits added fuel to the fire.  Complaints relate to the way 
the changes were pushed through without debate, and the content: 
many of the changes benefit the president rather than the 
legislative branch, as advertised.  While the critics have a point, 
they also appear to be underestimating the potential impact of an 
expanded, more diverse Mazhilis.  The full impact of the reforms 
will only be clear once related legislation is approved, beginning 
with a package of election law amendments introduced to parliament 
on June 1.  End summary. 
 
 
---------------------------- 
Initial Cautious Optimism... 
---------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) Immediately following President Nazarbayev's May 16 address 
to parliament in which he described his reform proposals in general 
terms, many in the political opposition reacted with cautious 
optimism (Ref A).  Social Democratic Party leader Zharmakhan 
Tuyakbay issued a statement describing the package as a "first step 
toward democratic reform," while calling for further reforms and 
more public debate.  True Ak Zhol co-chair Oraz Zhandosov told the 
Ambassador on May 16 that he viewed the majority of the proposals as 
beneficial. 
 
3. (U) On May 17, True Ak Zhol issued a public statement describing 
the amendments as "contradictory":  while they saw measures such as 
moving to a proportional system for electing the Mazhilis and 
requiring maslikhat approval of oblast akims as positive, they were 
critical of other measures such as residency requirements for 
parliamentary candidates and the lengthening of maslikhat terms. 
The party also noted that the reforms did not go far enough in 
establishing true local self-government by directly elected akims 
and maslikhats.  They called on the Mazhilis and Senate to revise 
the draft legislation to address these weaknesses. 
 
------------------------------- 
...Followed by Heated Criticism 
------------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) When the May 18 joint session parliament approved the 
package unanimously after only 21 minutes of deliberation, including 
a last-minute measure lifting term limits on Nazarbayev as 
Kazakhstan's "first president" (Ref B), the opposition sharply 
changed its tone.  True Ak Zhol co-chair Bulat Abilov told the press 
on May 22 that a country with a lifelong president "cannot be called 
democratic.  The reform shows that Kazakhstan is moving back to the 
Soviet past, and the autocracy of the regime is only getting 
stronger." 
 
5. (U) On May 23, the Social Democratic Party and True Ak Zhol 
issued two joint statements.  The first announced the formation of a 
pre-electoral bloc called "For a Just Kazakhstan" in anticipation of 
early Mazhilis elections.  The second sharply criticized the content 
of the amendments and the way they had been passed.  The majority of 
the changes "limit the rights and freedoms of the people of 
Kazakhstan, violate the principles of the system of checks and 
balances, and contradict Kazakhstan's international obligations," 
the statement read.  It criticized the "shamefully short" 
deliberation period, as well as the introduction of residency 
requirements for Senate and Mazhilis candidates; the provision 
allowing the Senate, a body not directly elected by voters, to 
exercise the functions of the whole legislature if the Mazhilis is 
dissolved; the provision allowing the president to dissolve the 
parliament and maslikhats at all levels for any reason; and the fact 
that the president will in the future appoint almost one-third of 
senators and nine Mazhilis members.  The statement went on to say 
that the amendment lifting term limits on Nazarbayev "violates the 
constitutional norm on the equality of all citizens before the law, 
and in fact leads to the irremovability of the regime.  Moreover, 
this amendment clearly violates the procedure for amending the 
constitution stipulated in Articles 53 and 91." 
 
---------------------------- 
Tuyakbay Takes on the Senate 
---------------------------- 
 
 
ASTANA 00001558  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
6. (SBU) Although not on the speakers' list, Tuyakbay was allowed to 
address a May 30 Senate conference on democratic reform chaired by 
Senate Speaker Kasymzhomart Tokayev and attended by Pol-Econ Chief. 
In sharp contrast with the other speakers, who uniformly praised the 
amendments and Nazarbayev's lea
dership, Tuyakbay stated bluntly that 
the measures had provoked "bewilderment and fear" among the public. 
He criticized the working group led by Igor Rogov (Ref C) for not 
responding to proposals received from the Social Democratic Party 
and others, and questioned "the sincerity of the leadership" 
regarding reforms.  A visibly irritated Tokayev interrupted Tuyakbay 
to point out that his comments after Nazarbayev's speech had been 
relatively positive, and to ask why his approach had changed. 
Tuyakbay replied "the president's speech and the published text of 
the amendments are two different things:  the speech provoked 
optimism and seemed a step forward, but afterward those expectations 
were not fulfilled." 
 
7. (SBU) Tuyakbay continued his remarks, noting concerns over the 
expanded ability of the president to dissolve parliament and 
claiming that overall, the amendments strengthened the president's 
ability to resolve conflicts in his favor.  Noting that the 
increased role of the parliament in the formation of the government 
had been touted as a major improvement in the system of checks and 
balances, Tuyakbay explained that previously the president was 
required to obtain the parliament's consent before appointing a new 
prime minister; under the new provisions he will have to consult 
with Mazhilis party factions before proposing a candidate for the 
approval of the Mazhilis.  Tuyakbay asked rhetorically, "how will 
this change anything, except to provide opportunity for more 
political intrigue?"  Concluding his remarks, Tuyakbay said that the 
new constitution does not follow the path of democratic development 
or the will of the nation; it is difficult to say what results it 
will bring.  In a possible allusion to the Aliyev scandal (Ref D), 
Tuyakbay alleged that "we have seen the destabilizing effect in 
recent days."  He called for the creation of an independent Center 
on Constitutional Reform to develop proposals that are in the 
interests of all segments of society. 
 
8.  (SBU) All the major television channels, including Khabar, 
Astana TV, and Kazakhstan 1, reported on the Senate event.  Only the 
centrist and nominally independent Channel 31 covered Tuyakbay's 
comments, however. 
 
------------------------------- 
Preliminary Analysis of Changes 
------------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU) Opposition leaders are correct in their assessment that 
many of the changes increase the formal authority of the president. 
The Mazhilis and Senate will, however, gain additional leverage 
against the executive authority. For example, the reforms make it 
easier for the Mazhilis to succeed in a no-confidence vote against 
an individual minister or the Cabinet as a whole, lowering the 
threshold from a two thirds majority vote to a simple majority vote. 
 (Note: In the case of individual Cabinet members, a no-confidence 
vote is considered an appeal to the president for the dismissal of 
the Cabinet member; the president may refuse to dismiss the Cabinet 
member, in which case the Mazhilis may try again in six months.  If 
they succeed the second time, the president must dismiss the Cabinet 
member.  In the case of a no-confidence vote against the whole 
Cabinet, the Cabinet ministers must submit their resignation to the 
President.  If the president declines the resignations, he shall 
have the right to dissolve parliament.  End note.) 
 
10. (SBU) The impact of several changes to the Mazhilis and Senate 
and will depend on subsequent legislative changes and 
implementation.  For example, the Mazhilis will grow by 30 seats (to 
107), with nine deputies to be chosen by the 
presidentially-appointed Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan and the 
rest to be directly elected.  (Note:  The amendments to the 
constitutional law on elections submitted by the Presidential 
Administration to parliament on June 1 specify that Mazhilis members 
will be elected on a proportional, party list basis.  The minimum 
threshold for a party to be represented will remain 7%.  End note.) 
If elections under the new rules are conducted fairly, the enlarged 
Mazhilis could include at least a few opposition members - 
particularly if the True Ak Zhol-Social Democrats bloc comes up with 
a persuasive unified platform. 
 
11. (SBU) The changes to local self government were modest, but 
somewhat positive.  In the future, maslikhats rather than the Prime 
Minister will recommend oblast-level akims for appointment by the 
president.  The maslikhats can also vote to recommend that the 
president dismiss an akim by a simple majority, rather than a 
 
ASTANA 00001558  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
two-thirds vote as previously required.  The term for maslikhats is 
increased from four to five years, which some observers have 
criticized as distancing maslikhat members, who are directly 
elected, from their constituents.  Some have also criticized the 
fact that the president can now dissolve maslikhats for any reason; 
previously, only the Senate could do so for reasons prescribed by 
law. 
 
12. (SBU) Comment: While it is true that many of the constitutional 
amendments increase the president's formal authority, they will not 
increase his actual power.  Under the current system, President 
Nazarbayev makes every critical decision on government and 
parliamentary appointments, regardless of what the Constitution 
says.  Some of the changes merely codify actual practice, such as 
having the president appoint the ministers of Foreign Affairs, 
Defense, Internal Affairs, and Justice; in reality, the president, 
not the Prime Minister, currently chooses all the ministers, and the 
four listed above report directly to him.  The changes to 
presidential authorities may be an effort to ensure that 
Nazarbayev's successor, who will not have the same amount of 
personal power to bend the system to his will, will not be too 
disadvantaged.  In the near term, the most significant change 
brought about by the constitutional amendments is the increase in 
the number of directly-elected seats in the Mazhilis.  If the 
Kazakhstani authorities have the political will to address the 
underlying problems that have resulted in flawed elections in the 
past, new Mazhilis elections could/could bring a more diverse body 
with greater leverage over the executive branch.  End comment. 
 
MILAS

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