07ASTANA2223, SCENESETTER: KAZAKHSTAN ELECTION PREVIEW

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA2223 2007-08-14 13:03 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO9844
RR RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHPW RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2223/01 2261303
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141303Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0384
INFO RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1808
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0237
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 002223 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN M. O'MARA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV OSCE KZ
 
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER: KAZAKHSTAN ELECTION PREVIEW 
 
REF: A. Astana 2069 B. Astana 1906 
 
ASTANA 00002223  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: With Kazakhstan's parliamentary elections headed 
into the final few days of campaigning, it is clear that the 
pre-election period has been substantially freer and fairer than in 
any prior election.  As one pundit put it, the political field is 
now much more level, although there are still some big bumps, as Nur 
Otan maintains significant institutional advantages.  The two 
principal opposition parties have had an opportunity to wage a 
vigorous campaign, with few obstacles to meeting voters and placing 
advertising on television and radio, and in the print media. 
Television, while neither unbiased nor equal in its reporting, 
nonetheless has for the first time provided substantial coverage of 
the opposition's campaign efforts and broadcast two debates. Despite 
the improvements, however, the splintered opposition's failure to 
deliver a focused message, the popularity of President Nazarbayev, 
and voter apathy may yet result in a massive Nur Otan victory, an 
unappealing result for the GOK. End Summary. 
 
Pre-election Campaigning: So Far, So Good 
----------------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) Presidential Administration Chief Adilbek Dzhaksybekov 
spoke to the Ambassador at length on August 14 about the 
authorities' efforts to provide an opportunity for the opposition to 
make its case to the electorate, and a definitive decision by 
President Nazarbayev to accept the results of the election. 
Interestingly, he noted that there had been "discussions" within the 
Administration about other approaches, but he said that he has never 
considered any other option realistic for Kazakhstan at this point 
in its history.   He said that such a positive and constructive 
approach is important for Kazakhstan's development and for 
Nazarbayev's legacy of creating a democratic society. He added that 
new election day procedures for counting ballots and distributing 
precinct-level protocols make it "impossible" for any widespread 
cheating to occur. 
 
3. (SBU) The Ambassador met with National Social Democratic Party 
(NSDP) leaders Bulat Abilov and Oraz Zhandosov on August 10.  While 
they offered a number of examples of impediments to their campaign 
and "bad faith" by the government and Nur Otan, they appeared to be 
primarily focused on running their campaign and getting their 
message out.  They, too, said that newspapers were completely free 
to cover the campaign as they wished, and that there had been little 
or no interference with their campaign rallies, distribution of 
literature, or meetings with voters.  They did complain, however, 
about biased television coverage and a lack of access to commercial 
billboards. (Reftel A) 
 
Election Day: The Main Test 
--------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) New electoral and counting procedures, if implemented as 
designed, may yet reduce the opportunities to distort the vote count 
and aggregation.  New requirements include displaying each ballot to 
all commission members and observers before counting it, providing 
all interested parties with copies of the protocol of results, and 
allowing each party competing in the election the right to have a 
"consultative" member (without vote) at each level of the election 
commissions (Reftel B).  (Note: NSDP plans to have such 
representatives on higher-level commissions, but only observers at 
the precinct level. End Note.)  In addition, the Central Election 
Committee (CEC) has promised to post precinct-by-precinct results on 
the Internet, allowing observers to compare the protocols they 
received with the ones used to calculate the final results. 
(Comment:  The sooner the CEC does this the better, although there 
appears to be some debate within the Commission about whether to put 
the protocols on the Internet as they are received, or only after 
all the results are tabulated and announced. End Comment.) 
 
5. (SBU) Historically, efforts by local and regional authorities to 
ensure that they produce better-than-average results for the 
president and his party have been a major source of election fraud 
in Kazakhstan.  The Ambassador has heard from Dzhakysebekov and his 
deputy Maulen Ashimbayev, as well as from Nur Otan campaign chairman 
Kairat Kelimbetov, that they have explicitly told local authorities 
not to interfere with the ballot counting process.  Nonetheless, the 
chances of at least isolated attempts of malfeasance by local 
authorities are high - and it is certainly possible that they could 
be widespread enough to discredit the entire process.  We are fairly 
confident, however, that the OSCE election observation mission will 
be in a position to detect and report on any significant level of 
such abuse. 
 
The Outcome 
----------- 
 
ASTANA 00002223  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
 
6. (SBU) We can predict with a high degree of confidence that Nur 
Otan will win a majority, perhaps even a large majorit
y, of the 
votes cast.  We also expect that voter turnout will be relatively 
low.  Beyond that, crystal balls are in substantial disagreement, 
and published polls are all over the map and in our view totally 
unreliable.  In the last election, USAID financed both pre-election 
and exit polls using reliable independent contractors and 
methodologies.  Unfortunately, there was neither time nor the budget 
to arrange for such polling for these elections. 
 
7. (SBU) The Presidential Administration tells us that their 
internal polls suggest low votes for the two principal opposition 
parties, Ak Zhol and NSDP.  In an August 9 meeting with the 
Ambassador, Presidential Administration Deputy Chief Ashimbayev said 
that their information suggested that NSDP would not pass the 7 
percent threshold.  NSDP Abilov and Zhandosov, however, claimed that 
their polling suggested the party was getting 20 percent or more 
among "likely voters," and was leading in Almaty and two or three 
other regions. 
 
8. (SBU) The outcome will largely depend on turnout, and Nur Otan is 
likely to have a significant advantage in getting its supporters to 
the polls.  It is much easier to mobilize voters in rural areas, 
where the opposition has significantly less support.  Urban voters 
seem largely unexcited by the campaign.  Abilov and Zhandosov said 
that they were anticipating a 20-30 percent turnout in Almaty, and 
that even strong supporters were telling them they saw no reason to 
vote this time. 
 
9. (SBU) Comment: We think there is a reasonable chance that both 
NSDP and Ak Zhol will get more than 7 percent of the vote and get 
representation in Parliament - although it is also conceivable that 
both could fall short and the new Parliament will be completely in 
the hands of one party - an outcome our contacts in the Presidential 
Administration tell us would be undesirable and embarrassing.  Our 
reaction to the election process, and the standard to which we 
should hold the GOK, especially in view of its candidacy for the 
OSCE chairmanship in 2009, should not focus on the results.  Rather, 
it should be focused on the process and take as its factual basis 
the OSCE election observation effort.  So far, the OSCE's criticism 
has focused primarily on two legislative provisions that the 
observation mission believes are inconsistent with the Copenhagen 
commitments.  These are both important issues, and could very well 
be on our post-election agenda with the GOK as we determine how to 
proceed to evaluate Kazakhstan's candidacy for the chairmanship, but 
in our view are separate issues from the conduct of the elections 
themselves. End Comment.

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