08ASTANA2256, KAZAKHSTAN: LEGISLATION IMPLEMENTING MADRID COMMITMENTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA2256 2008-11-14 10:42 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

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RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2256/01 3191042
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 141042Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3836
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0807
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0206
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0916
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2041
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2374
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0371
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0288
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 0912

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 002256 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM OSCE KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  LEGISLATION IMPLEMENTING MADRID COMMITMENTS 
LEGISLATION APPROVED BY CABINET 
 
ASTANA 00002256  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  The Cabinet approved draft legislative packages 
amending Kazakhstan's laws on elections, political parties, and the 
media on November 11.  Prime Minister Masimov promised they would be 
sent expeditiously to the Majilis for consideration.  Deputy Foreign 
Minister Sarybay called in the Ambassador on November 12 to inform 
him of the news in person.  The three pieces of legislation are a 
step forward in Kazakhstan's political liberalization, although not 
as big a step as opposition parties and civil society would like. 
The election legislation would ensure that at least two parties are 
represented in parliament, but does not include any provisions 
guaranteeing opposition party representation in local election 
commissions.  The political party legislation lowers the minimum 
number of signatures required to establish a party and allows 
registration to continue even if some signatures are irregular.  It 
does not, however, set a deadline for the government to issue a 
decision on a registration request.  The media legislation lessens 
some of the registration requirements on media outlets and 
strengthens journalists' standing in libel suits.  Opposition 
leaders disparaged the legislative changes as not meaningful and 
called them a "Potemkin village for the OSCE."  END SUMMARY. 
 
CABINET APPROVES LEGISLATIVE PACKAGES 
 
3.  (U) On November 11, the Cabinet approved draft packages of 
legislation amending Kazakhstan's laws on election, political 
parties, and the media.  Prime Minister Masimov ordered that the 
packages be sent to the Majilis (i.e., the lower house of 
parliament) "as soon as possible," so that Kazakhstan can fulfill 
its Madrid commitments on democratic reform before the end of the 
year, as promised.  The legislative changes represent "essential 
support to our OSCE chairmanship," said Masimov.  Foreign Minister 
Tazhin told the press that "the amendments send a strong message 
that political reform must continue."  Deputy Foreign Minister 
Sarybay called in the Ambassador on November 12 to inform him 
personally of the news.  He gave the Ambassador an aide memoire -- 
also provided to the OSCE and other OSCE member states -- which 
detailed the key changes incorporated into the legislation and 
stressed that they "are aimed at ensuring further progress in 
developing the political system of Kazakhstan, including civil 
society and its institutions."  Sarybay could not guarantee that all 
three pieces of legislation would be adopted year's end, but 
expected in any event, they will be "fast-tracked" for parliamentary 
consideration.  He said parliament was unlikely to introduce any 
significant changes into the drafts. 
 
GUARANTEE OF TWO-PARTY PARLIAMENT 
 
4.  (SBU) The MFA provided us with summary versions of three pieces 
of legislation on November 13.   The election legislation would 
guarantee that at least two parties are represented in the Majilis 
by mandating that the party with the second highest vote count be 
awarded seats, even if it does not break the 7% threshold set for 
representation.  It also requires equal media coverage of 
nominations of candidates and registrations of party lists for all 
political parties.  Other changes clarify rules for dismissing 
electoral commission members and for granting candidates public 
space for meetings with voters.  The legislation does not require 
that opposition parties be included in electoral commissions, a 
provision long-demanded by opposition leaders, nor does it address 
their demands for equal media access throughout election campaign 
season. 
 
LOOSENED SIGNATURE REQUIREMENT FOR PARTY REGISTRATION 
 
5.  (SBU) The draft legislation amending the law on political 
parties would lower the number of signatures necessary for 
registration of a party from 50,000 to 40,000, and in cases of 
"irregular" signatures, would allow the registration process to 
continue as long as the total number of eligible signatures is above 
the minimum.  The legislation does not, however, establish a time 
 
ASTANA 00002256  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
limit for the government to issue a decision on registration. 
(COMMENT:  This means that the government could continue to hold a 
registration request in abeyance indefinitely, as has been the case 
with the unregistered Alga pa
rty.  We had previously been told on 
more than one occasion by Foreign Minister Tazhin that the 
legislation would, in fact, set a time limit on the registration 
process.  END COMMENT.) 
 
EQUAL FOOTING FOR JOURNALISTS IN LIBEL CASES 
 
6.  (SBU) Under the draft legislation amending the media law, 
electronic media outlets would no longer have to register (although 
they still have to be licensed), media outlets would no longer have 
to re-register when their top leadership changes, journalists would 
no longer have to get an interviewee's prior consent to 
electronically record an interview, and media professionals would 
stand on an equal footing with plaintiffs in libel cases -- a change 
from current law which requires that a journalist prove an allegedly 
libelous story is actually true.  The NGO Adil Soz, which took part 
in the Ministry of Culture and Information's media law working 
group, criticized the draft legislation as not going far enough in 
loosening registration requirements for print media, eliminating 
criminal liability for libel, and tightening the grounds for 
bringing a libel suit. 
 
OPPOSITION CRITICAL OF PROPOSALS 
 
7.  (SBU)  While the government hailed the drafts as part of 
Kazakhstan's "steady democratic vector," opposition parties leveled 
harsh criticisms against what they view as their shortcomings. 
National Social Democratic Party deputy head Amirzhan Kosanov told 
us on November 14 that the reforms are not meaningful given that 
opposition parties are not guaranteed places in local election 
commissions.  The question of which parties "will be allowed to 
participate in elections will thus be decided in the quiet offices 
of the Ak Orda (i.e. the Presidential Administration)," maintained 
Kosanov.  Alga President Vladimir Kozlov accused the government of 
building a "Potemkin village for the OSCE."  He believes that 
without lowering the 7% threshold for Majilis representation, the 
ruling Nur Otan party will never allow "more than a two-party 
parliament."  Azat head Bulat Abilov also criticized the threshold. 
"The limit should be at 3% at most," he argued. 
 
8.  (SBU) COMMENT:  All the legislation will likely be passed 
expeditiously by the parliament, since the government clearly 
considers it a top priority to demonstrate to us and other OSCE 
members that it takes the Madrid commitments seriously.  If adopted 
in their current form, the three legislative packages would be a 
step forward in Kazakhstan's political liberalization, although not 
as big a step as civil society and the opposition parties, or we 
ourselves, would have liked.  However, with this achievement, we are 
in a position to continue to push for more incremental changes in 
the right direction.  END COMMENT. 
 
HOAGLAND

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