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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1991 2007-07-23 08:11 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana


DE RUEHTA #1991/01 2040811
R 230811Z JUL 07

E.O. 12958: N/A 
1. (SBU) Summary:  During the July 13-14 nodel visit of 
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, the GOK highlighted its 
preparations for the August parliamentary elections, 
arranging two separate trips for her to local polling 
stations.  Domestic media coverage was extensive, and 
pro-government media outlets emphasized Congresswoman 
Berkley's most flattering comments on Kazakhstan's democratic 
development and election preparations. Kazakhstan's 
arrangements for the visit appear to be part of a larger 
pre-election public relations push. End Summary. 
Congressman Berkley Shown to the Polls (Twice) 
--------------------------------------------- - 
2. (U) Congressman Shelley Berkley of Nevada visited Almaty 
on January 13-14.  The Congresswoman traveled to Kazakhstan 
at the invitation of the United Jewish Congress of Kazakhstan 
and on the recommendation of State Secretary Kanat 
Saudabayev, the former Kazakhstan Ambassador to the United 
States. Her main purpose for the trip was to support Mark 
Seidenfeld, a jailed constituent. Seidenfeld was found not 
guilty of embezzlement after spending eighteen months in jail 
prior to the verdict. 
3. (U) During her two days in Almaty, Berkley (accompanied by 
Charge) met with State Secretary Saudabayev, the Almaty 
Oblast Akim, the Almaty Vice-Akim, and representatives of the 
Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan.  She also visited a local 
synagogue and the Kazakhstani Jewish Community Center. 
Because she missed a connecting flight to Kazakhstan, 
Congressman Berkley's schedule was truncated and a meeting 
with Senate Speaker Kasymzhomart Tokayev canceled. 
4. (SBU) In addition, her Kazakhstani hosts organized two 
separate trips to polling stations, one a modern poll in 
Almaty with electronic voting equipment, the other a 
traditional ballot box poll on the outskirts of the city. On 
her July 14th visit to a suburban polling station, she was 
greeted by the Akim of the Almaty Oblast, at least 75 invited 
guests, and a host of media.  The polling facility was 
decorated with banners and various instructions on how to 
submit paper ballots.  Following several rounds of picture 
taking and welcoming speeches, Representative Berkley held an 
impromptu news conference.  Although most of the questions 
pertained to her impressions of Kazakhstan, when she stated 
"according to the U.S. Embassy, relations between the U.S. 
and Kazakhstan are strong and point to a fruitful future," 
sustained spontaneous applause broke out. 
5. (U)  Berkley's visit received extensive domestic press 
coverage.  The four national television stations, the Almaty 
and Astana municipal stations, and two cable channels devoted 
4-5 minutes of their evening primetime news broadcasts to her 
visit.  Three of the country's four daily newspapers managed 
to file stories for their Saturday editions.  All stations 
reported that the purpose of her visit was to observe the 
preparations for the Mazhilis elections. The official 
television stations highlighted Berkley's comments made at a 
polling station, where she said (translated from Russian 
transcript) "I am convinced that the system of electronic 
voting is simple, transparent, and elicits confidence that 
the vote will be counted correctly."  The newspapers, 
official and pro-government, reported her positive assessment 
of Kazakhstan's political and economic reforms.  She was not 
asked one question about the Seidenfeld trial during any of 
her press events. 
Kazakhstan's Embassies Active 
6. (SBU) Kjetil Hestad, Security Advisor for the OSCE/ODIHR 
election monitoring mission, told Poloff that when he applied 
for a visa to Kazakhstan in Oslo, Kazakhstan's Ambassador met 
with him for ninety minutes to discuss Kazakhstan's progress, 
how Kazakhstan is trying to do the "right thing" in the 
elections, and how CIS countries suffer from a double 
standard in the OSCE.  During the meeting, the Ambassador 
presented Hestad with several small gifts, including a 
leather-bound book on Kazakhstan filled with pictures of 
President Nazarbayev meeting foreign dignitaries.  According 
to Hestad, some of his OSCE colleagues from other European 
countries had similar experiences.  In Washington, Ambassador 
Idrissov sent a letter to "friends of Kazakhstan" in the 
United States soliciting volunteers for the OSCE observer 
mission through the U.S. quota. He wrote that "a personal 
knowledge of Kazakhstan and the understanding of building new 
institutions and political culture in a young society are 
important to be an objective observer." 
7. (SBU) Comment: With the international community keenly 
interested in the conduct of the Mazhilis' elections, 
Kazakhstan's public relations efforts are not a surprise. 
Despite its public relations efforts, however, the GOK 
remains aware that there will be a serious, substantive 
evaluation of its election related conduct, and thus far has 
been cooperative with the ODIHR election observation mission. 
 In a July 20 meeting with Charge, Lubomir Kopaj, the head of 
the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission, sai
d that he has 
been pleased with his team's reception from the Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs and the Central Election Committee, and he 
believes that the mission is on track thus far for an 
effective evaluation of the election.  These early reports of 
cooperation and transparency signal that the ODIHR election 
observation mission will be allowed to do its job, and will 
be able to distinguish "spin" from reality.  End Comment 


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