08ASTANA1288, USOSCE DCM SCOTT DISCUSSES MADRID COMMITMENTS

WikiLeaks Link

To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.
Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #08ASTANA1288.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA1288 2008-07-18 11:44 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO0821
PP RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHPW RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1288/01 2001144
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181144Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2765
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0565
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001288 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV SOCI PREL ECON KZ
 
SUBJECT: USOSCE DCM SCOTT DISCUSSES MADRID COMMITMENTS 
 
1.  SUMMARY: During his June 26-30 trip to Kazakhstan, USOSCE DCM 
Kyle Scott met with government officials and opposition and civil 
society leaders to discuss Kazakhstan's Madrid commitments.  In 
meetings held after President Nazarbayev's June 29 speech, 
government officials strove to reassure DCM Scott that the promised 
legislation on elections, political parties, and media will be ready 
by the end of the year. OSCE Center in Astana also expressed 
cautious optimism that the President's speech will translate into 
direct action from the government.  Civil society leaders are less 
optimistic that the new legislation will go beyond "cosmetic 
changes."  One leading activist said democratic transition will come 
only after the ruling elite negotiate full protection for its 
economic assets.  The push to pass the new religion law seems to 
have slowed, although civil society activists and the OSCE are still 
watching the legislation closely.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2. USOSCE DCM Kyle Scott traveled to Kazakhstan June 26 - 30 to 
attend the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) as well as to gather 
information on Kazakhstan's progress on the Madrid commitments.  He 
spent two days in Almaty, where he met with leaders of civil 
society, religious groups, independent media, and opposition 
parties, and several days in Astana, where one day was devoted to 
bilateral meetings with the government. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
GOVERNMENT PROMISES PROGRESS ON MADRID... 
----------------------------------------- 
 
3. DCM Scott's bilateral meetings came directly on the heels of 
President Nazarbayev's speech at the OSCE PA in which he publicly 
discussed the Madrid commitments.  As could be expected, the 
government was eager to reassure us that the promised legislative 
changes will be ready before the end of the year.  The President's 
Internal Policy Director Erlan Karin said that the draft laws on 
election, political parties, and media were already in the works. 
He stressed that while the government bureaucracy was lagging, the 
political will was there.  According to Karin, the President's 
speech was a sign of the shift of priorities within the government. 
While it was previously "focused on stability," its new focus is 
"stability of development."  "Madrid is just the beginning," said 
Karin. 
 
4.  Similar assurances were made by the Culture and Information 
Minister Mukhtar Kul-Mukhammed and Central Election Commission (CEC) 
Chairman Kuandyk Turgankulov.  Kul-Mukhammed said the draft 
legislation on media should go to the Mazhelis in September, and 
Turgankulov expects the new election law to be ready by December. 
In answer to DCM Scott's question on Nazarbayev's promise of "at 
least a two party Parliament," Turgankolov said the new law will 
likely drop the Mazhelis threshold requirement for the 
second-highest winner to assure multi-party representation. 
 
5.  In DCM Scott's meeting with the OSCE Center in Astana, Head of 
Center Ambassador Keltchewsky and Deputy Head Jeannette Kloetzer 
both expressed cautious optimism about Kazakhstan's progress.  "The 
trend is positive," said Kloetzer.  She noted that the officials who 
were previously reluctant to "cross the line" now had the 
President's official sanction to move forward.  Keltchewsky added 
that the speech presented a unique opportunity to gain momentum on 
the Madrid commitments.  Kloetzer and Keltchewsky agreed with DCM 
Scott that the Centre faces an important job of unitizing this 
opportunity to make sure the new legislation truly upholds the 
spirit of OSCE principles. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
... BUT CIVIL SOCIETY SEES LITTLE MOVEMENT 
------------------------------------------- 
 
6. During meetings held in Almaty before Nazarbayev's speech, 
opposition party leaders shared a predictably less optimistic view 
of Kazakhstan's political scene.  CPK's Serikbolsyn Abdildin derided 
the one-party Mazhelis as a corrupt institution that simply 
rubber-stamps the government's initiatives.  Azat's Tulegen Zhukeyev 
added that the opposition parties are kept artificially weak by the 
"cynical fixing of elections," something only pressure from "the 
West" can alleviate.  NSDP's Amirzhan Kosanov struck a more 
optimistic note, saying that public demand that Kazakhstan fulfill 
its Madrid commitments should bring about positive changes.  All 
agreed that the new law on political parties will be ready on 
schedule, but worried that it will only include "cosmetic changes." 
 
 
7.  Representatives of the independent press were equally 
pessimistic on the new law on the media.  At a round-table on media 
freedom, watchdog NGO Adil Soz's Tamara Kaleyeva said that the 
proposals under consideration from the government would do little to 
change the current restrictive environment.  The biggest issues -- 
strict registration requirements for print media and criminal 
penalties for libel -- are not being addressed, she said. 
In
kar.info's journalist Sergey Duvanov and Tarzhargan Weekly's 
 
ASTANA 00001288  002 OF 002 
 
 
editor Taszhargan Bapi noted that the government's use of libel laws 
was responsible for much of the self-censorship in print media and 
television.  On the question of freedom of the internet, Duvanov 
said that opposition news websites were still being periodically 
blocked. 
 
8.  Discussing the law of elections, Republican Network of 
Independent Monitors' (RNIM) Taskyn Rakhimbekova said she doesn't 
expect much from new legislation.  Rakhimbekova's NGO monitored 25% 
of the polls during the last elections, and in her opinion, count 
irregularities were more the result of overzealousness on the part 
of local akims than defects in the election law.  The akims are 
directly appointed and do not want to jeopardize their job security, 
she said.  While a new law on elections would be progress, 
Rakhimbekova does not believe it would not bring substantial 
changes. 
 
9. Kazakhstan Bureau for Human Rights' Yevgeniy Zhovtis gave a more 
nuanced view of the situation.  Zhovtis told DCM Scott that while he 
has no doubts that the government will pass the necessary 
legislation before the end of the year, he does not expect it to 
bring any seismic shifts to the political scene.  In his opinion, 
true political reform will not take place until the ruling elite can 
successfully negotiate full protection for its economic assets. 
"How many countries have billionaires on the Presidential staff?" he 
asked, referring to Presidential Administrator Bulat Utemuratov, who 
recently made the Forbes' 2008 World's Richest People list. 
Many in Nazarbaev's circle stand to loose their fortunes if removed 
from power, explained Zhovtis, and are understandably reluctant to 
introduce any major changes to the current order.  It is his belief 
that true democratic reform will be a slow process involving careful 
negotiations within the ruling circle. (Comment: In fact, the 
appearance of Utemuratov and other Kazakhstanis on the Forbes list 
demonstrates progress toward transparency and legalization of 
assets, either through IPOs that converted assets into publicly 
traded shares or, as was the case with Utemuratov sale of assets, to 
major western companies that have conducted due diligence on their 
purchase.  The result brings these riches out of the shadow somewhat 
reduces the long-term vulnerability of their owners.  End comment.) 
 
 
--------------------------------------- 
PROMISING SIGNS ON RELIGION LEGISLATION 
--------------------------------------- 
 
10. Along with the Madrid commitments, the draft religion 
legislation was a frequent topic of DCM Scott's conversations. 
During a meeting with Helsinki Committee's Ninel Fokina and 
representatives of Jehovah's Witnesses and Hare Krishnas, Fokina 
said that while the newest version of the law is an improvement over 
the original, it still represents "significant threat to religious 
freedom." 
OSCE Almaty Liaison Office's Human Dimension Officer Eugenia Benigni 
told DCM Scott that OSCE/ODIHR continues to watch the legislation 
closely.  Her office organized several meetings between a visiting 
religious freedom expert from ODIHR and the MFA and Committee on 
Religious Affairs.  She said that the OSCE also plans to do training 
sessions on religious freedom for government officials in 
mid-September.  (Note: September is when the Mazhelis will likely 
pick up the legislation after its summer holiday.  End Note.)  OSCE 
Astana Centre's Kloetzer noted that the drive to pass the law has 
slowed, something she ascribes to the successful intervention from 
the NGOs and international community.  President Administration's 
Karin cautiously let us know that the support for the law was 
lessening.  Careful to underline that the final decision will come 
from the Mazhelis, he said that the Administration had "several 
conversations with [Mazhelis] members" on potential issues with the 
new legislation.  According to Karin, Kazakhstan's "two main 
religious groups" -- presumably Muslims and Orthodox Christians -- 
were also beginning to have second thoughts about the law. 
 
11. COMMENT:  It is clear that the President's speech gave the 
government a green light on the Madrid commitments. The government 
will likely produce the "Madrid" legislation before the end of the 
year.  Whether it will be the "new beginning" that Karin promises, 
or the "cosmetic changes" that civil society predicts, remains to be 
seen. 
 
DCM Scott did not have a chance to clear this cable. 
 
ORDWAY

Wikileaks

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: