08ASTANA2398, KAZAKHSTAN: OPPOSITION PARTIES CRITICIZE MADRID LAWS, BUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA2398 2008-12-04 11:15 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO8403
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW
RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV
RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2398/01 3391115
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 041115Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4028
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0889
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0294
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0996
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0456
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0371
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 002398 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM OSCE KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  OPPOSITION PARTIES CRITICIZE MADRID LAWS, BUT 
FAIL TO OFFER A WAY FORWARD 
 
REF: ASTANA 2249 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) This is the first in a series of cables analyzing 
reactions to Kazakhstan's Madrid legislation. 
 
3.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  On November 19, a group of Western diplomats met 
with leading opposition parties to gather their reactions to the 
draft laws on political parties, elections, and the media, which are 
currently being considered by the Mazhelis (parliament's lower 
house).  The oppositionists maintained that the new laws will do 
little to liberalize Kazakhstan's political climate.  Azat's Chair, 
Bulat Abilov, levied criticism against Western governments and the 
OSCE for "supporting Nazarbayev's regime," although his colleagues 
did not seem to support his views.  The sole NGO representative 
chastised the opposition parties for blaming the West for issues the 
Kazakhstanis "should be solving themselves."  In a poignant example 
of the occasional tension between civil society and the opposition, 
the Kazakhstani participants engaged in a heated exchange accusing 
each other of not doing enough to promote liberalization.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
4.  (SBU) On November 18-19, a group of Astana-based Western 
diplomats traveled to Almaty to meet with representatives of 
opposition parties and civil society to gather their views on the 
draft laws on elections, political parties, and the media, which are 
currently being considered by the parliament.  The group, informally 
known as the "HR group," includes officers who cover human rights 
issues for the embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, 
Canada, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Austria, and meet 
regularly to exchange information on various human rights issues. 
On November 19, the group met with with Azat Chair Bulat Abilov, 
Deputy Chair Peter Svoik, National Social Democratic Party (NSDP) 
Deputy Amirzhan Kosanov, and Alga President Vladimir Kozlov.  The 
group also met with an independent economist and former Azat party 
co-chair, Oraz Zhandosov, as well as the president of the 
election-monitoring NGO Republican Network of Independent Monitors 
(RNIM), Taskyn Rakhimbekova. 
 
OPPOSITION EXPECTS LITTLE FROM THE NEW LAWS... 
 
5.  (SBU) Alga's Kozlov said that since the draft laws had yet to be 
publicized, civil society organizations had been obliged to rely 
solely on government's press releases for information.  Kozlov 
nonetheless maintained that the law on political parties will 
regulate, rather than afford, the right to free association.  He 
asserted that, under the new provisions, the future of his own 
as-yet-unregistered party is far from certain.  Under the current 
legislation, he explained, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) can suspend 
a party's registration process indefinitely, but the party's 
establishing committee can still function freely in recruiting new 
members and publicizing their platform, stopping just short of 
elections.  The new law would still allow the MOJ to suspend the 
registration, but also impose a six-month life-span on the 
establishing committee.  "This means that our committee will be 
disbanded every six months," he asserted. 
 
6.  (SBU) Speaking more broadly, Kozlov alleged that the country's 
political environment is pushing opposition parties toward 
left-leaning political platforms.  According to Kozlov, Alga had 
been created as a center-right party, but "pressure and harassment" 
from the authorities "pushed us left."  While initially "the party 
of the businessman," Alga changed its strategy and began building a 
base in the countryside, "where people have no concept of human 
rights."  The National Social Democratic Party (NSDP) Deputy, 
Amirzhan Kosanov, agreed, noting that while opposition parties may 
differ in platforms, all are "united in the belief that Kazakhstan 
needs to build a democracy in the European fashion." 
 
... AND SOME BLAME THE WEST FOR THE SHORTCOMINGS 
 
7.  (SBU) Azat's chair Bulat Abilov took over the conversation and 
moved it from the Madrid commitments to what he perceived to be the 
shortcomings in the policies of Western nations toward Kazakhstan. 
Briefly explaining that Azat garnered second-place in the 2004 
elections, but has yet to gain any seats in Parliament, he radically 
shifted gears and announced that he is "angry with the OSCE, the EU, 
 
ASTANA 00002398  002 OF 003 
 
 
and the United States."  According to Abilov, U.S. Vice President 
Cheney, German President
 Horst Koehler, and Italian Prime Minister 
Silvio Berlusconi are all guilty of "strengthening Nazarbayev's 
regime" by expressing "undue admiration" for the Kazakhstani 
President and failing to "listen to the opposition" during their 
official visits.  (NOTE: Abilov levied similar criticism in his 
meeting with the Ambassador (reftel).  END NOTE.)  The U.S. poloff 
gently reminded the Azat leader that while we may at times disagree 
on tactics, we still shared a common goal of promoting democratic 
development in Kazakhstan.  The German representative told Abilov 
that the tight schedules of VIP visitors frequently make it 
impossible to schedule meetings in Almaty, where the majority of 
opposition parties and civil society organizations are based. 
Italy's representative clarified that PM Berlusconi's trip was 
purely a tourist trip and stressed that it was important to keep the 
bilateral dialogue open. 
 
KAZAKHSTAN IS "OSCE'S ISSUE" NOW 
 
8.  (SBU) The Canadian representative reminded the oppositionists 
that "local ownership" is key in any country's democratic processes 
and asked whether the parties had specific strategies for dealing 
with Kazakhstan's seeming "voter apathy."  Azat's Deputy,Peter 
Svoik, responded that the country's political system is based on 
"pure falsification" and the new laws would only strengthen it. 
"Without including opposition parties in the elections commissions, 
all talk of democratic participation is a moot point," he stressed. 
He alleged that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in 
Europe (OSCE) was facing a big problem because its incoming Chairman 
has "no respect for democratic principles."  Kazakhstan's opposition 
parties have their own issues, he continued, but "in 2010, so will 
the OSCE."  Svoik declared, "you'll either have to pretend that you 
know nothing of what goes on in Kazakhstan or admit to being 
hypocrites." 
 
9.  (SBU) Abilov alleged that Kazakhstan's political system has been 
flawed for many years, but that the OSCE "is only starting to pay 
attention now."  Returning to what is obviously a favorite theme, 
Abilov lamented that during a 2005 meeting with several Western 
Ambassadors, "only the U.S., UK, and Dutch Ambassadors paid any 
attention."  In a long diatribe in Russian, Abilov said the Italian 
Ambassador was "bored at the meeting and paid more attention to the 
buttons on his shirt."  (It was obvious that Abilov's colleagues 
were uncomfortable with his fervent criticism.  Zhandosov, a fluent 
English-speaker, who had taken over the interpretation to give the 
interpreter a break, opted not to relay the majority of Abilov's 
statement, saying simply that it "wasn't translatable."  Kosanov 
quietly murmured to Abilov under his breath "enough already.") 
Kazakhstan has many human rights issues, but so do many Western 
nations, maintained Abilov, and by allowing Kazakhstan to become 
chair, the OSCE "is losing its credibility." 
 
"WHY BLAME THE FOREIGNERS?" 
 
10.  (SBU) RNIM's Rakhimbekova, the civil society representative, 
broke in to chastise the oppositionists for blaming the West "for 
our problems."  "Why do we have to rely on foreigners to do what we 
should do ourselves?" she asked.  Abilov again tried to raise the 
plight of the opposition, but Rakhimbekova sharply cut him off by 
saying that he spoke "long enough."  Rakhimbekova  said the main 
problem with the new laws is that input from opposition and civil 
society has been largely excluded from the drafts.  "We've yet to 
see the new laws," she stressed, "despite the fact that we've been 
asking the government for them for a month." 
 
11.  (SBU) Rakhimbekova's attempt to steer the conversation back to 
the Madrid commitments did not take hold, however.  Abilov, 
bristling at the accusation that the opposition wasn't doing enough, 
accused civil society of "always running to the OSCE."  At this 
point the participants seemingly forgot about the presence of 
foreign diplomats, and the conversation dissolved into a round of 
heated mutual accusations that civil society was spending too much 
time abroad and the opposition was not doing enough at home. 
Attempts to bring it back on track by the moderator did not succeed 
before the meeting's end. 
 
"POLITICAL THEATER" FOR A FOREIGN AUDIENCE 
 
 
ASTANA 00002398  003 OF 003 
 
 
12.  (SBU) In a separate conversation, Rakhimbekova referred to the 
meeting as "the perfect example of our political theater."  She 
dismissed Abilov's diatribes as "rants of a man who is afraid" that 
his party will not make it into the Mazhelis.  (NOTE:  The draft 
election law, which mandates that the party with the second-highest 
number of votes automatically gets into the Mazhelis, has generated 
speculation on which party will join Nur Otan in the parliament. 
END NOTE.)  In a telling example of the divisions between opposition 
parties and NGOs, she asked not to be included in future meetings 
with the oppositionists, preferring, as she said, "to stick with my 
civil society colleagues."  Separately, Alga's Kozlov quipped that a 
foreign audience "encourages some toward the pronouncement of fiery, 
but empty, slogans." 
 
COMMENT 
 
13.  (SBU) Abilov is a leading figure in the opposition circles, but 
his criticism of the OSCE and the West should not be taken as the 
views of the opposition as a whole.  Other leaders, including NSDP's 
Kosanov and Alga's Kozlov, told us in the past that Kazakhstan's 
2010 OSCE chairmanship should prove to be a positive influence for 
the country's overall political liberalization.  Rakhimbekova and 
Abilov's unabashed disagreement is indicative of the disconnect that 
sometimes exists between civil society and the opposition.  None of 
the opposition parties, with the possible exception of the Communist 
Party, with its hefty historical legacy, have built a truly national 
party with a loyal grass-roots following.  To a certain degree this 
is the result of the government's tight control of the political 
environment.  In this respect, the proposed legislation, despite the 
many flaws pointed out by the oppositionists, still serves to loosen 
that control and move the country a step forward in its political 
liberalization.  END COMMENT. 
 
MILAS

Wikileaks

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