08ASTANA2399, KAZAKHSTAN: CIVIL SOCIETY PESSIMISTIC ON MADRID LAWS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA2399 2008-12-04 12:00 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO8453
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW
RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV
RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2399/01 3391200
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 041200Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4031
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0892
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0297
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0999
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0459
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0374
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 002399 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM OSCE KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  CIVIL SOCIETY PESSIMISTIC ON MADRID LAWS 
 
REFS: 
A) ASTANA 2388 
B) ASTANA 2256 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) This is the second in a series of cables analyzing 
reactions to Kazakhstan's Madrid legislation. 
 
3.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  On November 19, several leading NGOs shared 
their views on the draft laws on political parties, elections, and 
the media, which are currently being considered by the Mazhelis 
(parliament's lower house).  They criticized the government for not 
going far enough with political liberalization, citing the religion 
law as an example, and called on the OSCE to press Kazakhstan for 
"greater pluralism."  The Human Rights Bureau's representative, 
Evgeni Zhovtis, suggested using Kazakhstan's Path to Europe program 
as another "lever" for democratization.  END SUMMARY. 
 
4.  (SBU) On November 18-19, a group of Astana-based Western 
diplomats met with leading NGOs to discuss the draft laws on 
elections, political parties, and the media, which are currently 
being considered by the parliament.  The group met with Human Rights 
Bureau Head Evgeniy Zhovtis, Legal Policy Research Center (LPRC) 
Chair Vera Tkachenko, Freedom House representative Iva Dobichina, 
and Eurasia Foundation President Jeff Erlich.  The group also met 
with Tamara Kaleyeva, head of Adil Soz, a local media-watchdog NGO, 
and several independent journalists. 
 
CIVIL SOCIETY LEADERS SEE FLAWS IN THE LEGISLATION 
 
5.  (SBU) Adil Soz's Kaleyeva, who participated in the drafting of 
the media law, shared her view of shortcomings in the new 
legislation.  In her opinion, the biggest issue is that the draft 
law has not lessened the registration hurdles for print media and 
has not fully decriminalized lQl.  (NOTE: While the registration 
requirements for print media can be onerous, they have not stopped a 
lively opposition press from developing.  END NOTE.)  Kaleyeva also 
said that the few substantive changes, like dropping registration 
requirements for electronic media, "will have little effect on 
freedom of the press." 
 
6.  (SBU) The Human Rights Bureau's Evgeniy Zhovtis asserted that 
"since the whole concept of the legislation is wrong, there is 
little point in discussing particular problematic provisions of the 
laws."  He told us that several NGOs made concrete proposals to the 
government on amending the election law, such as including 
representatives of opposition parties in local election commissions, 
granting public access to electoral lists, allowing foreign NGOs to 
observe elections, and increasing the transparency of the tabulating 
process.  "None of the provisions made it into the final law," 
asserted Zhovtis.  On the law of political parties, Zhovtis believes 
that lowering the minimum number of signatures required for 
registration is not important.  "What's important," he stressed, "is 
the end goal of the process -- do you afford the right to free 
association, or do you regulate it?"  The current draft, in Zhovtis' 
opinion, regulates it. 
 
RELIGION LAW A "WORRISOME" EXAMPLE 
 
7.  (SBU) The Legal Policy Research Center's Tkachenko emphasized 
that along with the Madrid legislation, another "worrisome" piece of 
legislation was close to becoming law.  She stressed that the 
religion law should not be excluded from any conversation about 
Kazakhstan's liberalization, since it would severely limit religious 
freedom in Kazakhstan.  (NOTE: The law passed the parliament on 
November 26 and is awaiting President Nazarbayev's signature (reftel 
A).  END NOTE.)  Overall, Tkachenko predicted that the Madrid 
legislation would not change Kazakhstan's political environment. 
 
CALL FOR "CONCERTED MESSAGE" FROM OSCE MEMBERS 
 
8.  (SBU) Freedom House's Dobichina reported with Zhovtis that the 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) called them soon after the package 
of amendments went to the parliament to ask for their assessments of 
the laws.  The MFA representative was apparently eager to gather 
civil society views on the laws.  When told that neither Zhovtis nor 
Dobichina had yet seen the draft legislation, the MFA asked that 
they share their assessment "as soon as it is ready."  Zhovtis 
 
ASTANA 00002399  002 OF 002 
 
 
characterized the call as further evidence of the "divide" that 
exists in the government between "the old guard and the liberal 
wing," with the MFA falling squarely in the latter.  The OSCE should 
support "the reformers" by sending a concerted message
to the 
government "that the laws are insufficient."  In Zhovtis' view, the 
"gradual change" approach to Kazakhstan's political liberalization 
"has brought no results," and the OSCE needs to press harder for 
"greater pluralism" in the country.  He suggested that the Path to 
Europe, Kazakhstan's plan to establish greater ties with the 
European Union, could be used as "another lever" for 
democratization. 
 
COMMENT 
 
9.  (SBU) Civil society leaders have consistently criticized the 
government for not going far enough with the  Madrid legislation. 
The package of amendments, if adopted in its current form, would 
fall short of what civil society and the opposition would like, but 
it is nevertheless a step forward and an opportunity to push for 
more moves in the same direction.  Pressing too hard, however, is 
unlikely to bring welcome results, as can be seen from President 
Nazarbayev's recent criticism of the EU for wanting to turn 
post-Soviet states into democracies at a pace far quicker than their 
own political development will allow.  Persistent, patient, and 
private diplomacy, combined with encouragement of the liberal wing 
within the government, will be the most effective path to our goals. 
 
 
MILAS

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