09ASTANA541, KAZAKHSTAN: LIFE ON THE STEPPE, MARCH 21 – 27, 2009

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA541 2009-03-27 09:07 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO2061
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK
RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0541/01 0860907
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270907Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5031
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1414
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0794
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1497
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0481
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0977
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0890
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1360

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000541 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, SCA/PPD, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON SOCI SENV KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  LIFE ON THE STEPPE, MARCH 21 - 27, 2009 
 
ASTANA 00000541  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1.  (U) This is another in a series of weekly cables drawn mostly 
from public media, as well as think-tank, NGO, and opposition 
web-sites, selected to show the diversity of life in Kazakhstan, and 
information about it available to citizens of Kazakhstan.  Our goal 
is to choose what might interest and be of use to various end-users 
in Washington and -- especially -- to provide a more complex view 
from the other side of the world, illustrating the vitality (and 
sometimes the quirkiness) of discourse available to citizens of 
Kazakhstan. 
 
DISQUALIFIED CANDIDATES FOR LOCAL ELECTION CRY FOUL 
 
2.  (U) The Almaty Election Committee found 18 candidates ineligible 
to run for office in the upcoming Maslikhat (regional legislative 
body) election.  In January, the Committee announced elections, 
scheduled for March 29, to fill empty seats in three districts. 
Initially, 33 candidates registered to compete for the seats but the 
Committee's recent decision has left the field sharply reduced. 
Furthermore, questions have arisen whether the decision was 
politically motivated.  According to one ineligible candidate, the 
reasons why they have been denied participation in the elections 
were "ridiculous." 
 
3.  (U) Most of the disqualified candidates were declared ineligible 
because of alleged inconsistencies in property and income 
disclosures.  One candidate was disqualified for not disclosing that 
he owned a car, which was stolen from him 16 years ago.  Another was 
found to have "hidden" 361 tenge (a little over two dollars) in a 
"secret" bank account.  Yet another was found ineligible because he 
did not disclose his share in a non-governmental organization, even 
though by law it is a not-for-profit entity and does not have 
shareholders. 
 
4.  (U) Denis Alimbekov, deputy head of the NGO Talmas and one of 
the ineligible candidates, has his own opinion about the decisions 
of the election committee:  "The authorities simply decided not to 
allow 'inconvenient' candidates to run:  human rights advocates, 
civil society leaders -- those of us who really defend civil 
rights."  Asylbek Kozhakhmetov, chairman of the NGO Shanyrak, was 
also suspicious of the real intentions of the authorities.  "I think 
that if the people at the top decide that some candidates should not 
have a seat on the city council," he said, then those candidates 
"will not get there, no matter what." 
 
5.  (U) Adil Dzhunusov, chairman of the Almaty election committee, 
categorically denied that the decision to exclude certain candidates 
was politically motivated.  "The idea that the committee want to 
'shut down' some inconvenient candidates is absolutely untrue," he 
said.  "We gave them all an opportunity to appeal the decision and 
dispute the findings of the Tax Committee." 
 
BAZAAR VENDORS STRIKE TO SAVE LIVELIHOODS 
 
6.  (U) Hundreds of vendors held a strike in front of the Zhana 
market in Almaty last week.  The vendors said they worry about their 
livelihood, particularly because of plans to build a mall where 
their market is currently located.  They fear that the new building 
will leave them without jobs and with little hope of finding new 
ones.  The market is scheduled to close on April 1, when 
construction of the mall is scheduled to begin.  The 400 vendors 
currently selling fruits, vegetables, and other items are required 
to leave by that date.  "We have already tried to rent stalls in 
other markets, but nobody wants us there.  Besides that, everyone 
here already has steady clients whom they will lose when the market 
shuts down.  To throw us out on the street like this is merciless. 
Everyone has families and now, with the [economic] crisis, we are 
already on the verge of poverty." 
 
WELL-CONNECTED CON ARTIST 
 
7.  (U) Perhaps inspired by the inventive Ostap Bender from the Ilf 
and Petrov novels, a 37-year old resident of Pavlodar swindled 
dozens of people of at least 800,000 tenge ($5,300).  As "a person 
close to the emperor", the swindler promised to use her personal 
connections with the inner circle of Kazakhstan's power structure to 
make problems disappear and find solutions to any predicament.  For 
a fee, of course.  However, like Ilf and Petrov's infamous "great 
combinator," those valuable connections existed only in the creative 
 
ASTANA 00000541  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
mind of the Pavlodar con artist and the hopes and dreams of her

gullible victims.  It is impossible to determine how many people 
fell for the Pavlodar "power broker" and how much money she stashed 
away before she was finally apprehended.  Nevertheless, since her 
victims may have had good reason not to complain to the police, it 
is safe to assume that the amount is some multiple of the 800,000 
tenge reported. 
 
MAN LIFTS BULL, MAN WINS BULL 
 
8.  (U) The highlight of the Nauryz festivities in Taraz was a truly 
manly contest.   How many squats can a man do -- with a bull on his 
shoulders?  As it turned out, eleven of the twelve competitors were 
unable to do even a single squat; they could not even manage to lift 
the bull on their shoulders.  Granted, the bull weighted about 110 
kilograms (242 pounds).  The winner, however, was not only able to 
hoist up the young bull but also squatted down and stood up three 
times in a row.  In recognition of his feat of strength, he left the 
festivities showered with admiration -- and with the heavy beast 
itself. 
 
MILAS

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