07ASTANA3368, SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS: BECOMING A LIBERAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA3368 2007-12-27 03:10 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO9816
RR RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHTA #3368/01 3610310
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 270310Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1426
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0342
RUCNCLS/SCA COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 003368 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN - O'MARA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/26/2017 
TAGS: ECON KDEM KZ OSCE PGOV PHUM
SUBJECT: SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS:  BECOMING A LIBERAL 
POLITICIAN IN NORTHERN KAZAKHSTAN 
 
REF: A. ASTANA 2222 
     B. ASTANA 3025 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John Ordway, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
 1. (C) Summary.  Young, U.S.-educated and fed up with local 
corruption, Viktor Frolov wants to enter politics and change 
the way things are done in his native Petropavlovsk (capital 
of Northern Kazakhstan oblast).  Frolov told Econoff that, 
despite being defeated in his first campaign for the 
Petropavlovsk City Maslikhat (city council), he aspires to 
run again.  Although he most closely identifies himself with 
the opposition Ak Zhol, Frolov has chosen to direct his 
pursuits through the ruling Nur Otan.  He sees his region as 
one with an increasingly disaffected population and no 
functioning political opposition.  Frolov's travails present 
an interesting microcosm of the political realities in 
Northern Kazakhstan oblast.  End summary. 
 
Pick Your Party 
--------------- 
 
2. (C) In a December 15 conversation with Econoff, Viktor 
Frolov, an ethnic Russian native of Petropavlovsk, made it 
clear that his political perspective was largely defined by 
the year he spent studying in the United States as an 
undergraduate on a U.S.-funded program.  By the time of the 
August elections, Frolov had been preparing for a run for the 
Petropavlovsk City Maslikhat for some time.  Ideologically, 
he most closely identifies himself with Ak Zhol (Econoff 
first met Frolov when visiting the Petropavlovsk Ak Zhol 
campaign headquarters in early August in the run-up to the 
Parliamentary elections, ref A).  However, Frolov never 
officially joined Ak Zhol due to his conviction that an 
affiliation with the opposition would prevent him from 
getting elected.  Instead, in early 2008, with the 
encouragement from the city akim, Frolov joined Nur Otan, 
hoping to build his political career from within the ruling 
party. 
 
3. (C) Upon joining Nur Otan, the twenty-something Frolov was 
immediately made a member of the 12-member "politburo" of Nur 
Otan's Petropavlovsk branch.  Nevertheless, Frolov's 
ambitions to run in the August election on the Nur Otan 
ticket for the city maslikhat were dashed.  Frolov told 
Econoff that, although his candidacy was supported by the 
city akim, the oblast akim struck it down.  The reason, 
Frolov explained, was that he "had nothing to lose" and was 
therefore difficult to control.  Without a substantial stake 
in the "system" (such as owning his own business), Frolov was 
deemed by the oblast akim as not subject to leverage and 
potentially too independent. 
 
Run on Your Own 
--------------- 
 
4. (C) Undeterred (and without leaving Nur Otan), Frolov 
proceeded to run for the city maslikhat as an independent. 
He and his supporters canvassed the neighborhoods of his city 
district, talking to residents and handing out campaign 
materials.  The issues were local: repairing buildings, 
constructing a playground, etc.  Frolov told Econoff that he 
came under some pressure from the local authorities to pull 
out.  His supervisor at the bank was asked to coerce Frolov 
to abandon his pursuit.  To this, Frolov said, his boss had a 
"clever" response: he (falsely) claimed that he was powerless 
to act against Frolov, because the latter had strong links to 
the bank's leadership in Almaty. 
 
5. (C) Frolov echoed the claim made to Econoff by the 
Petropavlovsk Ak Zhol leader in August that all the local 
election results were drawn up in the oblast maslikhat a 
month or two before the election (ref A).  Other local 
opposition-minded candidates (all running as independents) 
were, Frolov said, pressured to withdraw or even stricken 
from the ballot.  The oblast akim, Frolov claimed, violated 
the law by openly campaigning for Nur Otan.  Many businesses, 
including Frolov's own bank, called their employees and 
pressured them to show up at the polls.   Frolov was told by 
the authorities not to bother fielding observers at two of 
his district's four polling stations.  At the end of the day, 
he garnered 29% of the vote, with the Nur Otan candidate 
winning over 60%, and the rest going to a "stand-in, 
sacrificial lamb" candidate.  Of the 19 seats in the city 
Maslikhat, Frolov said, 18 went to Nur Otan, with the 
remaining seat going to a "token" independent with no ties to 
the opposition. 
 
Savor the Frustration 
 
ASTANA 00003368  002 OF 002 
 
 
--------------------- 
 
6. (C) Frolov stated to Econoff that he is happy with his 
career in banking but remains determined to enter politics. 
Many people in the largely ethnic-Russian Northern Kazakhstan 
oblast are, according to Frolov, increasingly unhappy with 
the current state of affairs.  Endemic corruption and 
preferences for ethnic Kazakhs in hiring are, he said, 
fueling public unease.  Emigration to Russia from the oblast 
is continuing.  Frolov stated that t
he removal of Tair 
Mansurov, the oblast akim, in October drew a sign of relief 
from the local business community, which resented Mansurov's 
penchant for extracting money from businesses.  (Note: 
Mansurov has since been appointed the General Secretary of 
the Eurasian Economic Community, "EurAsEc," which includes 
Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and 
Uzbekistan.  End note.)  On the other hand, Frolov added, 
Mansurov's replacement, his former deputy Serik Bilyalov, is 
a "nobody" and does not inspire confidence.  At the same 
time, the political situation in the oblast is becoming 
"harsher": every single local newspaper issue is read and 
pre-approved by oblast authorities prior to publication; Nur 
Otan is increasingly acting as the sole party in power and 
calling the shots by itself.  The oblast authorities, 
according to Frolov, routinely compel local businesses, 
particularly banks, to provide money for various public 
projects, though the recent financial turmoil (ref B) has 
abated these pressures.  Government jobs, he added, are 
routinely "purchased."  Frolov stated that young people who 
come back to Petropavlovsk after studying in the U.S. are 
"incensed" by the corruption they see. 
 
...And Run, Run Again 
--------------------- 
 
7. (C) With the next Petropavlovsk city maslikhat election 
nearly five years away, Frolov's main hope is that one of the 
maslikhat's seats becomes vacated early.  (Note: Candidates 
for the Petropavlovsk city maslikhat must be residents of the 
city but not necessarily of the district they are vying to 
represent.  End note.)  In the meantime, Frolov said, he 
remains in the Nur Otan politburo, which "hypocritically" 
approves any proposal that comes before it.  Frolov stated 
that he is presently laying the groundwork for a political 
career by building connections.  For now, he believes that 
Nur Otan is his best bet for getting elected as a member of 
the city maslikhat.  He noted that the law allows a maslikhat 
deputy (though not a Mazhilis deputy) to leave his party 
after being elected and still retain his seat. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
8. (C) Frolov's travails present a good cross-section of the 
political realities in the Northern Kazakhstan oblast, which 
-- under the thumb of the recently departed akim Tair 
Mansurov -- earned the reputation of being a tightly 
controlled one (ref A).  The increasingly close marriage of 
the ruling Nur Otan with the government, the virtually 
unbridled powers enjoyed by the oblast akim, the rampant 
corruption, and the nearly complete impotence of the local 
opposition are the common threads running through Frolov's 
story and that of his oblast. 
ORDWAY

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