09ASTANA587, KAZAKHSTAN: OPINION POLL INDICATES PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA587 2009-04-03 10:12 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO8667
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 #0587/01 0931012
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 031012Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5084
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1440
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0818
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1521
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0505
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2245
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2575
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1003
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0916
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 000587 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM SOCI KDEM KPAO RS KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  OPINION POLL INDICATES PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV 
RETAINS VERY STRONG SUPPORT 
 
1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  In a U.S. Government-funded survey commissioned 
by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and conducted by 
Baltic Surveys/The Gallup Organization, 41 percent of respondents 
had a favorable opinion of the United States, while 22 percent had a 
negative opinion, and 33 percent remained neutral.  Russia received 
an 80 percent favorable rating.  The respondents were most concerned 
about socio-economic issues, and a majority disapproved of the 
government's handling of the economic crisis.  Nevertheless, 
President Nazarbayev remains the most popular politician in 
Kazakhstan, with a 95 percent approval rating, and more than half of 
respondents said they would vote for the ruling Nur Otan party if 
parliamentary elections were held tomorrow.  Approximately half of 
respondents were open to the idea of Nazarbayev handing over the 
presidency to the next generation at the end of his term in 2012, 
but at the same time, 57 percent of those surveyed say that he 
should be allowed to serve an unlimited number of terms if he so 
chooses.  Opposition parties and leaders trailed far behind in 
popularity.  The majority of respondents believe democracy is the 
right form of government for Kazakhstan, but far fewer are certain 
that a multi-party coalition rule would benefit the country. 
Television stations from Russia remain a major source of political 
news for the majority of Kazakhstanis. END SUMMARY. 
 
RUSSIA LEADS IN APPROVAL RATINGS 
 
3.  (SBU) As part of a U.S. Government-funded program, a national 
public opinion survey of Kazakhstanis was commissioned by the 
International Republican Institute (IRI) and conducted by the Baltic 
Surveys/Gallup organization February 14-23.  Gallup's partner, the 
Kazakhstan Institute for Comparative Social Research, did the 
fieldwork in interviewing 1519 Kazakhstanis throughout the country. 
The last IRI/Gallup poll was conducted in August 2008 and was also 
funded by the U.S. Government. 
 
4.  (SBU) In this February survey, 41 percent of respondents had a 
favorable opinion of the United States, 22 percent a negative 
opinion, and 33 percent were neutral.  Those over 50 years old, 
unemployed or retired, and residing in rural areas were more likely 
to have a negative opinion of the United States than other 
respondents.  Russia received an 80 percent approval rating, with 
only 5 percent of the respondents voicing a negative opinion.  China 
earned a 46 percent approval rating, with 17 percent expressing a 
negative opinion.  Those most critical of China were ethnic Kazakhs 
(63 percent) with secondary education or lower, who work as manual 
laborers (31 percent) or are unemployed (33 percent).  The surveyors 
described this group as those who see China as competition. 
 
THE MAJORITY TRUST THE GOVERNMENT... 
 
5.  (SBU) The significant majority of the respondents believe that 
the country is moving in the right direction, with 72 percent 
registering their approval, a 5 percent uptick from the results of 
the August 2008 survey, and 69 percent expressing confidence that 
the government is run for the benefit of all people.  There was a 
significant increase in the approval ratings for local government -- 
61 percent expressed a positive view of local authorities, as 
opposed to 42 percent in August 2008.  Close to 60 percent also 
believe that local governments should be granted more authority to 
resolve local issues. 
 
... BUT DISAPPROVE OF ITS HANDLING OF THE ECONOMIC CRISIS 
 
6.  (SBU) Close to three-quarters of the respondents gave the 
government low marks for its handling of the economic crisis.  Over 
half believe that the economic situation will get worse or stay the 
same; nevertheless, close to the same number assess the current 
economic situation as "good."  The overwhelming majority of 
respondents -- 90 percent -- remain concerned about high prices. 
About 26 percent ascribe high prices to the government's poor 
economic policy, another 26 percent blame greedy merchants, and 13 
percent name corruption. 
 
 
ASTANA 00000587  002 OF 003 
 
 
SOCIAL-ECONOMIC ISSUES ARE THE TOP PRIORITY 
 
7.  (SBU) Socio-economic issues were of primary concern f
or the 
majority of the respondents.  Asked to name the issue of greatest 
concern, 35 percent named inflation and price increases, 21 percent 
unemployment, 13 percent low standards of living, and 11 percent low 
incomes.  Less than one percent said that implementing further 
democratic reform is their top priority.  In rating the government's 
performance on socio-economic issues, 55 percent thought that the 
government was not doing enough on poverty reduction, and close to 
half the respondents criticized the government's policy on poverty 
reduction, employment, housing, and corruption.  The areas where the 
government received top marks were national security (52 percent), 
general development (46 percent), and foreign policy (47 percent). 
On democratic development, 29 percent judged the performance to be 
good, 14 percent bad, and 32 percent neither good nor bad, while 25 
percent gave no answer or said that they did not know. 
 
8.  (SBU) Although the majority of respondents did not list 
corruption as one of their top concerns, the problem is still viewed 
as a serious.  Just one-third of the respondents (31 percent) 
believe that the government's anti-corruption efforts are working, 
and over half (52 percent) believe that the current political 
leadership is capable of significantly reducing the level of 
corruption during the next few years.  Customs is seen as the most 
corrupt government agency (35 percent), followed by universities (33 
percent), the courts (25 percent), banks (15 percent), and the army 
(15 percent). 
 
OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV... 
 
9.  (SBU) The survey shows that President Nazarbayev enjoys the 
overwhelming trust of Kazkahstanis.  Asked to rate individual 
political leaders, 95 percent voiced their approval of the 
President, up from 92 percent in 2008.  His daughter Dariga follows 
as the second highest rated politician at 64 percent, with the akim 
(mayor) of Astana, Imangali Tasmagambetov, following at 54 percent. 
In comparison, top opposition leaders, including Communist Party 
head Serikbolsyn Abdildin and Azat party head Bulat Abilov, earned 
approval rating in the 20 to 40 percent range.  Nazarbayev's 
son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev, earned just a 22 percent favorable 
rating.  Among the respondents, 86 percent said they approve of the 
President's job performance, and 78 percent believe that Nazarbayev 
is the one political leader best able to handle the country's 
problems, a significant increase from the 48 percent who said so in 
August 2008.  Tasmagambetov trailed immediately behind Nazarbayev, 
with 6 percent of respondents saying that he is best able to handle 
Kazakhstan's problems.  Over 70 percent of the respondents said they 
would vote for Nazarbayev if presidential elections were held today, 
while 7 percent named Astana mayor Tasmagambetov as their 
presidential choice.  Only 1 percent named Zhamarkhan Tuyakbai, the 
united opposition's candidate during the last presidential elections 
in 2005.  About half of the respondents agreed with the statement 
that President Nazarbayev should hand over the power to the next 
generation at the end of his term in 2012, while -- somewhat 
incongruently -- 57 percent said he should stay in power as long as 
he wishes. 
 
... AND FOR THE RULING NUR OTAN PARTY 
 
10.  (SBU) Despite criticism of Kazakhstani elections by local and 
international observers, 64 percent of respondents believe that the 
country's elections are conducted in a fair and honest way.  Over 60 
percent said they would vote for the ruling Nur Otan party if 
parliamentary elections were held next week.  The leading opposition 
parties garnered far less support:  just 4 percent said they would 
vote for Alikhan Baymenov's Ak Zhol party, 3 percent for Serikbolsyn 
Abdildin's Communist Party, and under 1 percent for the National 
Social Democratic Party and the Azat party.  Of particular note, 43 
percent said that the ruling Nur Otan party is fulfilling its 2007 
election promises -- an increase from 22 percent in the August 2008 
survey, and a majority believe that the Nur Otan can contribute to 
making the economy stronger, eradicating corruption, and 
strengthening human rights.  When asked similar questions about the 
 
ASTANA 00000587  003 OF 003 
 
 
opposition parties, over half the respondents said they do not know 
enough about the parties to make judgments.  Nur Otan's popularity 
is undoubtedly aided by Nazarbayev's own popularity -- 89 percent of 
respondents say they trust Nazarbayev as the party's leader. 
 
SUPPORT FOR THE "DEMOCRATIC" IDEA 
 
11.  (SBU) Among the respondents, 41 percent believe that democracy 
is the right form of government, and another 41 percent believe 
democracy "may be" the right path.  Just over half agreed that only 
under democratic rule will the government be forced to address 
economic problems, unemployment, and corruption, and 62 percent 
believe that Kazakhstan should have an active opposition.  Asked 
whether they support a rule by one party or a coalition of several 
parties, 35 percent were in favor of a coalition, while 44 percent 
would prefer rule by one party.  In the surveyors' opinion, the high 
preference for a one-party rule could be explained by the 
Kazakhstanis' general lack of experience with a multi-party system, 
rather than a principled opposition to it.  Asked about the status 
of freedom of speech in Kazakhstan, 56 percent of the respondents 
said they believe that at least some Kazakhstanis are afraid to 
express their political views. 
 
RUSSIA IS IMPORTANT NEWS SOURCE 
 
12.  (SBU) The survey confirmed yet again that Russia is an 
important news sources for Kazakhstanis.  Among the respondents, 85 
percent said they rely on Kazakhstani television stations for 
political news, while 61 percent also watch news programs on 
television stations from Russia.  Just 6 percent said they obtain 
political news from other foreign TV stations.  Over one-fifth of 
the respondents say they get news from the Internet, which, 
according to the surveyors, is the highest percentage in the region. 
 
 
HOAGLAND

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