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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA2244 2007-08-19 23:55 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

DE RUEHTA #2244/01 2312355
R 192355Z AUG 07 ZDK

E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF: A) Astana 2221 B) Astana 2223 
ASTANA 00002244  001.8 OF 004 
1. (SBU) Summary: On August 10-12, Conoff and Con FSN traveled to 
Ust-Kamenogorsk in Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast (central eastern 
Kazakhstan, bordering on China and Russia) to meet with political 
party representatives and local authorities in advance of the August 
18 elections.  Additionally, Conoff attended a "town hall" meeting 
and press conference held by one of the parties and witnessed part 
of an informal campaign event held by another party. In general, the 
political scene in Ust- Kamenogorsk is not unlike what Post has 
observed throughout the country, with opposition parties 
encountering some hindrance (albeit seemingly minor in this 
particular oblast) and voicing concern about possible vote fraud, 
while Nur Otan dominates the airwaves and conducts the most active 
and visible campaign. Local authorities earnestly claim to be doing 
everything fairly and transparently within the law, offering equal 
access and opportunity to all parties.  The opposition parties 
believe that their message - which can be summarized as "We're not 
Nur Otan" - is being well received, and expect that they will get a 
significant portion of the votes between them.  They do not believe 
this will necessarily translate into seats, however, because of vote 
counting issues. End summary. 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
2. (SBU) On August 10-12, Conoff and Con FSN traveled to the far 
east of Kazakhstan, to the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk.  During the 
trip, Conoff met with a deputy Akim of the Eastern Kazakhstan 
Oblast, the Akim of Ust-Kamenogorsk, representatives of Ak Zhol, and 
representatives of Nur Otan to discuss the progress of the campaign 
in the region.  Conoff also attended a town hall meeting for the 
National Social Democratic Party (NSDP) and witnessed the awards 
ceremony for a run sponsored by Nur Otan. During his travels 
throughout the city, Conoff observed multiple Nur Otan billboards or 
billboards featuring President Nazarbayev, and numerous smaller Nur 
Otan signs on a wide variety of public places, including on the 
outside windows of some city buses and trams, as well as on the 
inside of some buses and trams. Conoff saw virtually no signs or 
advertisements from other parties outside of certain specially 
designated areas for campaign posters. 
3.(U) Conoff met for more than an hour with Deputy Akim of the 
Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast, Amangali Yedrisovich Tazhenov, in his 
well-appointed office in the Akimat headquarters.  Tazhenov said 
that his focus for the elections is making sure they go smoothly and 
without controversy, in accordance with the law, and in a 
transparent manner.  Tazhenov said there were long term observers 
from Switzerland and the Netherlands in the Oblast, and that these 
observers - along with the media and party observers - have 
permission to get all of the information they desire. 
4. (U) Tazhenov told Conoff that the goal of the legal authorities 
was to create equal conditions and equal opportunities.  In 
practice, Tazhenov said this means maintaining the official election 
list and giving the parties equal access to mass media and to 
government-owned meeting space.  The oblast designated a secondary 
school for the parties to use for meetings and rallies. (Note: The 
NSDP town hall meeting was in a secondary school auditorium. End 
note.) Tazhenov told Conoff that there is real competition in the 
oblast, region and city Maslikhat elections - on average, 3 
candidates are vying for every seat. 
5. (U) Tazhenov told Conoff that some parties have not always been 
able to attract people to their rallies, and that some parties have 
complained about not having access to mass media.  He noted that he 
had asked papers to cover events of political significance, like 
campaign rallies or town hall meetings.  (Comment: The NSDP town 
hall meeting was taped by a couple of news outlets and there was a 
short press conference after the meeting. End comment.) According to 
the law, outside of legitimate news events, organizations - 
including political parties - must pay for newspaper space or 
airtime; even the Akimat must pay.  Tazhenov stressed that it was 
not his goal to promote any particular party, and that all parties 
have the same campaign spending limitations.  However, he noted that 
even if the local authorities treat all parties fairly, not all 
parties have the same skill or the same amount of money from their 
own sponsors.  As for voter lists, Tazhenov said that the Akimat 
gave a voter list to the election commission on July 28.  He 
acknowledged that maintaining a perfect voter list is an extremely 
difficult task. 
ASTANA 00002244  002.8 OF 004 
6. (U) Tazhenov said that according to President Nazarbayev,

economics is first, and politics second.  He compared the economic 
growth of Kazakhstan - about 10% per annum for the past few years - 
to Asian Tigers, like Vietnam.  Tazhenov likened Nur Otan to the 
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in post-war Japan.    According to 
him, like the LDP, Nur Otan is supported by the population because 
the party guarantees good for the people, life has improved 
dramatically in the country, and people like stability. 
7. (U) Conoff met with the Akim of Ust-Kamenogorsk, Shakarym 
Sabyrovich Buktugutov, in his office.  Like the Deputy Akim of the 
Oblast, Buktugutov said that all parties are provided with equal 
facilities and equal opportunities.  He said his two main tasks were 
to supply and support election committees and to ask voters to 
participate in elections.  Buktugutov said the city akimat is not 
involved in the campaigns.  When asked about the tone of these 
elections compared to prior elections, Buktugutov said that 
Ust-Kamenogorsk was not historically very active compared to other 
regions.  Like many observers, Buktugutov expects the turnout for 
these elections to be low due to the summer holidays. 
8. (U) Conoff met with chairman of the Oblast division of Nur Otan 
Tulegen Toktasynovich Ibrayev and candidate Svetlana Ivanovna Ferkho 
at Nur Otan's oblast party headquarters.  The headquarters occupy a 
modern 3-story building with the Nur Otan name prominently displayed 
on the front.  Conoff also witnessed part of an informal campaign 
event, an awards ceremony for a run sponsored by Nur Otan. 
9. (SBU) Ibrayev said Nur Otan was following all laws in its 
election preparations.  Although some observers say the election is 
really a contest between Nur Otan and NSDP, Ibrayev said that they 
don't consider one party their rival and treat all parties as worthy 
opponents.  Ibrayev said that on a fundamental level there is little 
difference between the parties.  All parties want the same thing, 
namely that Kazakhstanis live better, but some parties have 
different ideas of how to achieve this goal.  Regarding turnout, 
Ibrayev said he had heard rumors that it would be low this election, 
but he said that the government has done so much for the people that 
they will show up and vote even though it's a summer election. 
(Comment: Ibrayev's answer to party differences was a common one. 
When directly asked, Ak Zhol also said that all parties have the 
same goal.  There appears to be an emphasis on shared goals and a 
lack of emphasis on ideology.  As in other regions, Nur Otan's 
financial and institutional advantages were clearly apparent.  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.) 
10. (U) According to Ibrayev, Nur Otan is very connected to the 
people.  All of the party's candidates go anywhere to meet with 
voters, whether it's to meet 5 people or to meet 100.  As in other 
regions, Nur Otan also performs "social services" in Eastern 
Kazakhstan Oblast - there is a room on the first floor of the 
headquarters building dedicated to this work.  Nur Otan is focused 
on public works in Ust-Kamenogorsk.  Ibrayev gave the example of 
cleaning the city - he said beginning 3 months ago Nur Otan 
organized a large campaign to clean up and renovate apartment 
courtyards.  He also mentioned "subbotniks", who spend their 
weekends helping clean the city.  Ibrayev said the akimat helped Nur 
Otan do projects. 
11. (U) Ibrayev said the Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast division of Nur 
Otan often consults with the national party. He said that Nur Otan 
is a young party, only 8 years old, and does not have a large number 
of professional political specialists yet.  In order to train and 
develop these specialists, leaders of the oblast party attend 
training events given by the national party.  When asked by Conoff 
if Nur Otan is institutionalizing beyond President Nazarbayev, 
Ibrayev said that everybody knows that Nazarbayev is leader of Nur 
Otan, but they also know which local leaders are Nur Otan.  He said 
that the party cares about the quality of its candidates and 
leaders, and that membership in the party is voluntary.  (Note: Both 
Ak Zhol and NSDP made reference to certain organizations, such as 
hospitals, requiring employees to pay dues to Nur Otan.  End note.) 
12. (U) In addition, Nur Otan actively sponsors events.  Ibrayev 
said that 2 days prior to meeting with Conoff there was a "day of 
friendship" with many of the 93 different nationalities in Eastern 
Kazakhstan Oblast conducting short performances.  He said the event 
ASTANA 00002244  003.2 OF 004 
was extremely well attended. Ibrayev said that the day after meeting 
Conoff Nur Otan was sponsoring a youth competition regarding the 
history of the region.  The day after the meeting, Conoff saw the 
end of another informal event sponsored by Nur Otan, a run.  There 
were about 100-150 people standing in a semi-circle around an emcee 
and an awards podium, located on a closed street. Much of the crowd 
consisted of teenage girls wearing sports uniforms and Nur Otan 
hats.  Virtually everyone in the audience had a Nur Otan hat and 
flag.  Both Ibrayev and Ferkho were in attendance, with the latter 
prominently wearing a large white Nur Otan t-shirt.  The emcee 
announced the winners of the run, and then there was a call for 
people to register their names for a prize drawing. 
13. (U) Conoff met several local Ak Zhol candidates and chairman of 
the oblast division of Ak Zhol and candidate Natalya Tsikunova in Ak 
Zhol's headquarters.  The meeting took place in Tsinukova's office 
behind a shop, and appeared to be the office from her job as 
director of a small private firm (as well as being Ak Zhol's 
14. (SBU) Tsikunova said she expected Ak Zhol to receive 25% of the 
votes.  She said she is pretty sure the voters will cast ballots for 
Ak Zhol, but she has no doubts that the votes will not be counted in 
a fair manner.  When asked how she came up with her forecast of 25%, 
she said that Ak Zhol has 16,000 party members in the region and 
many others who are sympathetic.  She said Ak Zhol held 2 meetings 
with national party leaders in the secondary school and both were 
well attended. 
15. (SBU) Tsikunova said the pre-election period was fair.  Ak Zhol 
had no problems from the authorities getting posters up, and had no 
problems with the posters other than petty vandalism that affects 
all parties.  Conoff only saw a few Ak Zhol posters on certain 
specially designated boards.  When asked by Conoff why he hadn't 
seen many posters, Tsikunova said there was a planned publicity 
blitz in the last week of the campaign.  Tsikunova said that the N
Otan posters on the buses and trams were not a violation of any 
laws, and that it was simply a matter of money.  In fact, Ak Zhol 
intended to run similar ads in the following week.  Tsikunova said 
that the authorities had not interfered with placing advertisements 
in newspapers, and as proof handed Conoff a regional paper with two 
ads for Ak Zhol candidates (and one Nur Otan candidate).  However, 
she did say that some newspapers had declined their ads, stating 
that they didn't want any trouble.  Tsikunova said she faced the 
same reaction from some business owners when asking about placing 
campaign posters on their property.  Tsikunova mentioned that 
although things had generally been fair, there was sometimes a 
blending of Nur Otan events and official city events.  For example, 
Ust-Kamenogorsk's City Day was moved from August 30th to August 11th 
and the celebration occurred in the main square where Nur Otan 
happened to be holding an event. 
16. (SBU) Tsikunova said Ak Zhol was not really an opposition party, 
but rather a party of the Kazakhstani people.  They have a point of 
view on every question and are willing to support the government 
when it has good ideas.  She said the platforms for all 3 main 
parties are virtually the same - improve the quality of life for 
Kazakhstanis.  Ak Zhol's emphasis is quality of life for teachers, 
doctors, and pensioners.  Tsikunova stated that Ak Zhol also 
performs "social services", but these appear to be of a much smaller 
scale than Nur Otan's. 
17. (SBU) Virtually all of the Ak Zhol candidates present said there 
were big problems with the voter lists.  They said that the Akims 
had - with no apparent legal basis - appointed supporters to be in 
charge of the voter list in micro regions.  The candidates said that 
these supporters did poor work and may even have intentionally left 
off supporters of opposition parties.  One candidate said his family 
was not on the voter list.  The candidates also said there is a main 
voter list and an auxiliary list of people who are potentially 
eligible, and in order to get on the main voter list a potential 
voter needs to bring an apartment/home registration in addition to 
identification.  The candidates feared that "babushkas" who tried to 
get on the voter list and failed would not try again. 
18. (SBU) The candidates stated that Nur Otan's power is due only to 
President Nazarbayev. They said Nur Otan membership is mandatory in 
a lot of places, like hospitals.  They mentioned a large local firm 
which requires employees to join Nur Otan and have 50 tenge a month 
withheld from their paycheck. The candidates said this practice was 
illegal, but that Kazakhstani people were too afraid to do anything 
about it.  Tsikunova said that despite the problems, a multi-party 
system exists and not only does she not feel any official pressure, 
ASTANA 00002244  004.2 OF 004 
but she says she can go to the city administration and they will 
19. (U) Conoff attended a town hall meeting (and subsequent press 
conference) occasioned by 3 national NSDP candidates campaigning in 
Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast.  Numerous college-age people dressed in 
NSDP t-shirts guided potential voters to the site of the meeting, an 
auditorium in a secondary school.  Approximately 200-225 people 
attended the meeting. There were no signs whatsoever of interference 
from local authorities.  The local affiliate of the Kazakhstan TV 
channel and another station taped the event. 
20. (U) The crowd greeted the entrance of the 3 candidates with a 
standing ovation.  The keynote speaker was party leader Zharmakhan 
Tuyakbay.  Tuyakbay greeted the crowd, evenly mixed between Kazakhs 
and ethnic Russians, first in Kazakh and then in Russian.  Tuyakbay 
talked of a "New Kazakhstan" and described in detail 7 specific 
points in NSDP's platform: 
 1. Fight corruption 
 2. Reform monopolies; subsidize and regulate energy and gas prices 
3. Reform and subsidize higher education 
4. Increase state pensions and lower age of eligibility 
5. Develop rural areas 
6. Pro-family policies including rewards for having children 
7. Support Kazakhstani common people.  Fight decline of Kazakhstani 
values and traditions.  Use Kazakhstani resources for the benefits 
of the people, not the few.  Get a bigger share of the profit from 
foreign investors. 
21. (U) Concluding his speech, Tuyakbay extolled the virtues of the 
NSDP, which he called the only opposition party.  He said that the 
Communist Party urged him to boycott the election, knowing that the 
vote counting process would be unfair.  But Tuyakbay said he decided 
to stay in the elections to show the bad parts of Nur Otan's 
practices and to show the way of fair politics. 
22. (U) After his speech, Tuyakbay took questions from the audience 
for about 30-40 minutes. Most of the questions were from citizens 
who wanted more from the government, and most of Tuyakbay's answers 
were populist in tone.  Notably, he was asked about an official 
language policy.  Tuyakbay said that on the one hand you need to 
have a state policy that takes the interests of Kazakhs and ethnic 
Russians into account.  He said he didn't know the answer, but he'd 
like to discuss the issue more in the future.  (Comment: The 
ambivalent attitude towards the language question was apparent 
during the whole meeting.  Tuyakbay's name was written in Kazakh on 
the campaign literature, and several questioners addressed him in 
Kazakh rather than Russian.  This led to a fidgety lack of 
understanding from the 50% of the audience that did not speak 
Kazakh.  End comment.)  The other notable question came from a woman 
who complained that there isn't enough information about the 
political parties.  Tuyakbay said that all TV is owned by rich 
people who are in government and you will never see any programs of 
opposition or criticism, only cheerful reports.  Tuyakbay said 
Kazakhstan needs to create a public TV station so that any ordinary 
person could stand up and raise issues. He went on to say that if 
newspapers publish articles the government doesn't like, the papers 
are bought or destroyed or its staff is threatened.  Tuyakbaya said 
there is a hidden struggle and there is no choice but to go to the 
villages and tell the truth. 
23. (U) A second candidate spoke briefly and said NSDP is the only 
true opposition and that all other parties are supported by Nur Otan 
and government.  The candidate said NSDP pays for ads, but the other 
parties get them free.  The candidate echoed Tuyakbay's calls for 
better resource distribution to common Kazakhs
tani people.  The 
candidate addressed a representative of the akimat in the audience 
and told him that NSDP is powerful and he shouldn't think that the 
authorities can get away with falsifying results. 
24. (U) There was a short press conference after the town hall 
meeting.  Ironically, the press conference was held in a classroom 
where a small poster of President Nazarbayev extolled his 
achievements.  The local affiliate of the Kazakhstan TV channel and 
another local TV channel participated.  Three questions were asked - 
none particularly interesting or probing - and the press conference 
concluded in about 5 minutes. 


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