07ASTANA2221, CAMPAIGNING IN MANGISTAU OBLAST: INCREASED FAIRNESS, BUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA2221 2007-08-14 08:37 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO9586
RR RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHPW RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2221/01 2260837
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140837Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0378
INFO RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1805
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0231
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 002221 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV OSCE KZ
 
SUBJECT: CAMPAIGNING IN MANGISTAU OBLAST: INCREASED FAIRNESS, BUT 
NUR OTAN STILL DOMINATES 
 
REF: Astana 1906 
 
ASTANA 00002221  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: On August 8-10, Poloff and Pol FSN traveled to 
Aktau in Mangistau Oblast (western Kazakhstan) to meet with 
political party representatives and NGOs in advance of the August 18 
elections.  In general, the Aktau political scene reflects trends 
apparent throughout the country, with opposition parties facing some 
roadblocks in their campaign and fearing fraud on election day, 
while Nur Otan dominates advertising space and conducts the most 
active and organized campaign. Despite the roadblocks, the 
opposition acknowledged that the situation is better than in the two 
previous elections, and most interlocutors claimed that there was a 
high degree of public interest in the elections.  End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
EMBASSY REACHES OUT TO AKTAU PARTIES, CIVIL SOCIETY 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
2. (SBU) On August 8-10, Poloff and Pol FSN traveled to the far west 
of Kazakhstan, to the city of Aktau on the Caspian Sea.  During the 
trip, Poloff met with representatives of Ak Zhol, the National 
Social Democratic Party (NSDP), and Nur Otan to discuss the progress 
of the campaign in the region.  In addition, Poloff discussed the 
campaign with representatives of the Republican Network of 
Independent Monitors, the Kazakhstan International Human Rights 
Bureau, a variety of NGOs, and a pastor from the Living Word 
Pentecostal Church. Poloff also arranged a meeting with a 
representative from the oblast akim's office, but the representative 
failed to appear for the meeting.  During his travels throughout the 
city, Poloff observed multiple Nur Otan billboards or billboards 
featuring President Nazarbayev, and numerous smaller Nur Otan signs 
on a wide variety of public places, including in the windows of some 
city buses. Poloff saw virtually no signs or advertisements from 
other parties. 
 
------- 
AK ZHOL 
------- 
 
3. (U) Poloff met with local Ak Zhol leader Agzam Zhumsakov in Ak 
Zhol's headquarters, a small office in a Soviet-era apartment 
building. Zhumsakov reported that Ak Zhol did very well in Mangistau 
Oblast in the 2004 parliamentary elections, and they were hoping to 
repeat the result this year.  He said that the local campaign has 
"slowed down" in recent days, after hosting visits from several of 
their national leaders.  He said the party expects one or two more 
of its national leaders to appear in Aktau before the election, and 
will spend some time campaigning in the regions and placing local 
media advertisements. 
 
4. (SBU) Zhumsakov and two or three fellow activists spent much of 
the conversation complaining about election law violations and 
unfair tactics that occurred during previous elections.  When asked 
about the conduct of the campaign during the current election, 
Zhumsakov said that the city has failed to respond to their request 
to place billboards in the city, essentially denying them the right 
to do so.  He also claimed that local authorities have been waging a 
"campaign of intimidation" for the last three months, collecting 
employee lists and pressuring employers to force their employees to 
vote for Nur Otan.  Zhumsakov reported that in a few cases local 
officials denied the party access to facilities for meetings.  He 
also predicted cheating on election day, and complained of a lack of 
opposition representatives on election commissions. (Reftel) 
 
5. (SBU) When pressed, Zhumsakov said that Ak Zhol has not had a 
problem thus far placing media advertisements, handing out campaign 
literature, or getting local television coverage.  (Note: All of Ak 
Zhol's campaign literature was printed in the Kazakh language only, 
though approximately 18% of the local population is ethnic Russian, 
and presumably does not speak Kazakh. End note.) He said that 
overall, the situation has improved somewhat from the 2004 and 2005 
campaigns, though he predicted a lot could still happen between now 
and election day.  Zhumsakov said that local citizens are well aware 
of the coming election, but that voters are tired of elections, as 
they just had a presidential election in December 2005.  He stated 
that citizens here generally do not trust the election process or 
expect elections to bring any real changes to their lives. 
(Comment: Overall, Poloff was not impressed by Ak Zhol's local 
operation; Zhumsakov and some of his fellow activists were far more 
interested in complaining about past violations and relatively minor 
violations this year, and did not appear to have a very robust 
campaign operation or concrete plans for the final seven days of the 
campaign.  End comment.) 
 
-------------------------------- 
NATIONAL SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY 
-------------------------------- 
 
ASTANA 00002221  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
 
6. (SBU) The local NSDP office was also housed in a small office in 
a Soviet-era apartment comple
x, not far from the Ak Zhol 
headquarters.  Local NSDP leader Adil Zhurmaly-uly echoed some of 
the same concerns as Zhumsakov, noting that the city has obstructed 
or delayed several of their requests for meeting facilities and for 
the three billboards they want to place within the city.  He also 
said that many sympathetic business owners refused to give them 
permission to place signs on their property, citing a fear of 
reprisals from local authorities.  In addition, Zhurmaly-uly 
expressed serious concerns about potential fraud on election day, 
reminding Poloff that opposition representatives received very few 
seats on the election commissions in Mangistau Oblast. (Reftel) He 
said that the local party intends to utilize the recently added 
provision to the election law which allows parties to send 
non-voting representatives to observe the work of election 
commissions on election day. 
 
7. (SBU) Zhurmaly-uly said that overall, it's been easier for his 
party to campaign this year than in previous years, and he credited 
this improvement to the success of the opposition's work over the 
last several years.  In the final seven days of the campaign, the 
party intends to send motorcades to villages to discuss the party's 
platform, and to set up booths at important population points to 
distribute literature. He said that his party will not be able to 
campaign as openly as Nur Otan, because many of their supporters are 
intimidated.  He predicted that without the intimidation factor, 
NSDP would be able to get 60-65% of the vote.  Finally, he noted 
that the party had little time to prepare for the campaign, because 
they were caught off guard by the early election date. (Comment: 
Though the local NSDP party appeared to have more concrete and 
effective plans for the remainder of the campaign than did Ak Zhol, 
the operation as a whole did not appear particularly energetic, and 
the campaign headquarters was filled with NSDP campaign materials, 
signs, and T-shirts that had not been distributed a week out from 
election day.  End comment.) 
 
-------- 
NUR OTAN 
-------- 
 
8. (U) Poloff met with local Nur Otan chief of staff Edil Jamburshin 
at Nur Otan's oblast party headquarters in a relatively modern 
office building.  Visible down the street was a brand-new, five 
story office building with the Nur Otan name prominently displayed; 
Jamburshin explained that the party was in the process of moving to 
the new facility.  Jamburshin presented in detail the party's 
campaign plan, a genuine grassroots effort which included 
mini-rallies in individual neighborhoods, door-to-door campaigning, 
telephone campaigning, and posting signs throughout the oblast.  He 
also said that the party conducted a number of larger receptions to 
introduce party candidates to the voters.  On August 12, the party 
is planning a disco party for local youth. He said that the party 
was committed to campaigning honestly and legally, because the party 
wants to win respect and does not want future criticism of its 
campaign efforts. 
 
9. (SBU) Jamburshin claimed that voter interest in the election is 
very high, though he admitted that turnout may be relatively low 
given that the election is taking place during vacation season. 
Based on his interactions with voters during the campaign, he 
believes that the quality of schools, roads, and other 
infrastructure are the most important issues on the minds of voters, 
followed by ecological issues and the lack of affordable housing. 
(Comment: Nur Otan's financial and institutional advantages were 
clearly apparent, as evidenced by the breadth and depth of their 
campaign effort.  In addition to these advantages, the party seemed 
far more knowledgeable about and focused on the mechanics of 
organizing a campaign and getting out the vote. End comment.) 
 
------------- 
CIVIL SOCIETY 
------------- 
 
10. (U) Poloff also met with a number of civil society interlocutors 
in order to discuss the election in Mangistau Oblast.  Aleksandr 
Mukha, director of the Mangistau Oblast branch of the Kazakhstan 
International Human Rights Bureau, agreed that most of the 
electorate was aware of the coming election, but many were still 
undecided.  He said that he observed a few violations, but said both 
the NSDP and Ak Zhol have been able to conduct rallies without 
serious hindrance.  He also recently traveled in several rural 
areas, and noted that appropriate campaign information was displayed 
at the rural polling stations he visited, though he noted that in 
general there was very little campaign activity by any party in the 
rural regions. 
But 
 
ASTANA 00002221  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
11. (SBU) Kirill Osin, director of the regional Republican Network 
of Independent Monitors branch, was heavily engaged in training 
election monitors and preparing for the election.  He shared the 
view that voters were well aware of the coming election, and felt 
that voter attitudes are generally positive. Osin himself was not 
optimistic that the vote counting process would be any better than 
in the past.  Osin also expressed disappointment in the weakness of 
the opposition parties, stating that they had failed to unite and 
present a stronger campaign against Nur Otan; instead, they were 
spending far too much time fighting and arguing with each other. 
(Note: The US government is providing financial support to the 
Network's election monitoring efforts.  End note.) 
 
12. (SBU) During the visit, the president of the local Civic 
Alliance NGO organized a roundtable discussion with several local 
NGOs, including NGOs devoted to environmental issues, disabled 
people, youth development, and rural business/farm development. 
(Note: The Civic Alliance is an NGO closely affiliated with the 
government, and seeks to organize local NGOs and seek government 
cooperation with civil society.  End note.) The NGO representatives 
consistently stated that the local population was very aware of the 
coming election, even in rural areas, and that people were actively 
comparing the various party platforms, etc. Only one NGO leader 
disagreed, saying that people were tired of elections, and didn't 
know the candidates or party platforms. Poloff met separately with 
Andrey Yatluk, the pastor of the Living Word Pentecostal Church, a 
registered 200-member church in Aktau.  Yatluk reported that his 
congregation was very engaged in the election, and that all of the 
church members intended to vote. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
13. (SBU) Comment: The opposition parties in Aktau are fighting an 
uphill battle against the formidable Nur Otan operation, and face a 
number of unfair or historic institutional disadvantages typical of 
the scene nationwide. These factors, combined with the popularity of 
President Nazarbayev, will play a role in the final result, even 
assuming a fair vote count.  However, the opposition's unimpressive 
local campaigns will also impact the result.  The principal 
op
position parties both acknowledged they have more freedom to 
campaign this year, but they do not appear to have taken full 
advantage of this improvement by conducting vigorous and energetic 
campaigns.  The reports of high voter interest in the elections are 
inconsistent with Post's observations elsewhere, and may reflect the 
fact that the interlocutors are active members of civil society and 
do not represent an average cross-section of local citizens. End 
comment.

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