08ASTANA1819, KAZAKHSTAN’S SENATE ELECTIONS NOT REALLY A TEST

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA1819 2008-09-19 11:58 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO6804
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHFL RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHMRE RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHTA #1819/01 2631158
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191158Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3348
INFO RUCNOSC/OSCE POST COLLECTIVE
RUCNCLS/SCA COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001819 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/19/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN'S SENATE ELECTIONS NOT REALLY A TEST 
CASE FOR DEMOCRACY 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1.  (SBU) Kazakhstan's Senate elections will take place on 
October 4, when local and regional maslikhats (legislatures) 
will vote to fill 16 Senate seats. The government has 
launched a wide media campaign to raise the profile of these 
usually low-key elections and has invited international 
organizations and foreign missions to "observe" them.  The 
maslikhats are dominated by the ruling Nur Otan party, so 
there is little doubt that it will emerge as a landslide 
winner.  The opposition refuses to participate in an election 
in which it maintains the results are "predetermined." Only 
one opposition party, Ak Zhol -- a party shunned by the other 
opposition parties -- has a candidate in the running. 
Election monitoring NGOs are also skeptical that the 
elections will bring any surprise results.  End Summary. 
 
SENATE ELECTION CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED 
---------------------------------- 
 
2.  (U) September 14 marked the beginning of the campaign 
season for elections to Kazakhstan's Senate, the upper house 
of parliament.  The elections are scheduled for October 4, 
when regional and local maslikhats (legislatures) will gather 
in separate regional conferences to vote on filling 16 Senate 
seats.  The Senate consists of 47 Senators: 15 are directly 
appointed by the President and 32 are elected by the 
maslikhats, with two of these 32 Senate seats reserved for 
each of country's fourteen oblasts and two for each of its 
two largest cities, Astana and Almaty (which are administered 
separately from the oblasts). 
 
3. (U) Candidates for Senate seats are either nominated by 
the maslikhats, or put their candidacies forward 
independently.  Those who clear the registration process 
receive public financing (approximately $2,000 per candidate) 
and are guaranteed access to the media.  The system does not 
make it easy for individuals with declared opposition-party 
affiliation to complete, as party-affiliated contenders can 
only get on the ballot through nomination by a maslikhat, all 
of which are dominated by the ruling Nur Otan party.  Of 88 
candidates who initially declared their candidacies, 50 
managed to get registered.  Of these 50, 21 are members of 
Nur Otan, 16 claim to be independents, and 12 opted not to 
declare a party affiliation.  One candidate is from Alikhan 
Baimenov's Ak Zhol party -- a party which claims to be in the 
opposition but which other opposition parties consider to be 
part of the government's "pocket opposition."  Ak Zhol's 
candidate was apparently nominated by an maslikhat in 
Kostanai oblast. 
 
DEMOCRATIC TEST CASE ... 
------------------------ 
 
4. (U) While the Senate elections usually garner little 
notice, this time the government is keen to raise their 
profile.  In an extensive interview with the newspaper Litr 
on September 13 under the headline "Test Case Elections," the 
Central Election Commission (CEC) chairman Kuandyk 
Turgankulov stressed that these are the last elections before 
Kazakhstan's 2010 OSCE chairmanship and that they must take 
place "in strict accordance with national legislation."  The 
CEC organized several training sessions for prospective 
candidates, and television and print media have been filled 
with extensive stories on the electoral process and 
interviews with sitting Senators.  The ruling Nur Otan party 
went so far as to hold primaries to pick its candidates, 
although critics pointed out that the primary process is much 
better suited for direct elections, like those for the 
Majilis, parliament's lower house.  To underline the openness 
and fairness of the upcoming contest, the government invited 
international organizations, NGOs, and foreign governments 
(including the U.S.) to send election "observers" on October 
4. 
 
... OR POLITICAL THEATER? 
------------------------- 
 
5.  (U) The opposition parties, predictably, are quite 
cynical about the fairness and transparency of the upcoming 
elections.  The major opposition parties have declared that 
they will not participate in what OSDP leader Zharmakhan 
Tuyakbay called "the forthcoming farce."  Tuyakbay told the 
press that the results of the election are "predetermined" by 
the fact that 85 percent of regional and local maslikhat 
members are from "the one and only Nur Otan party."  "The 
system does not allow for any result other than a 100 percent 
victory for the ruling party," he contended, "and OSDP does 
not intend to give a veneer of competition" to the elections. 
 Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin and Azat party 
 
ASTANA 00001819  002 OF 002 
 
 
head Bulat Abilov declared that they have no intention to 
spend time and money on elections they are certain to loose. 
Their decision was criticized by some political observers as 
a lost opportunity to at least publicize their ideas and 
party platforms. 
 
6.  (SBU) Civil society leaders are also pessimistic that the 
upcoming contest will, as the government hopes, showcase &
#x000A;Kazakhstan's democratic development.  Taskyn Rahimbekova, 
head of the Republican Network of Independent Monitors, told 
us that while her organization plans to monitor the 
elections, she has "little doubt" of the results.  She 
believes it unlikely that Nur Otan maslikhat members will 
buck the party and vote for candidates not pre-approved by 
the party leadership.  The sudden fury of activity around the 
elections is "nothing more than a show, staged to enhance Nur 
Otan's positive image," she said. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
7.  (C) There seems to be little justification for the 
"election fever" the government is trying to stoke.  Since 
the Senators will be selected by an "electorate" dominated 
Nur Otan legislators, there is no uncertainty as to who will 
emerge the winner.  In this context, public election 
campaigns and blitz educational outreach make little sense. 
These are the last scheduled elections before 2010, however, 
and it appears that some in the government have decided that 
this is nevertheless a chance to showcase the electoral 
process in Kazakhstan.   End Comment. 
MILAS

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