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Kazakhstan: Election (and Cycling) Races

Adam of neweurasia came up with series of posts dedicated to the ongoing election campaign. It is comparatively calm this time, with no flagrant cases of arrests, attacks or murders of opposition members or seizures of independent newspapers as it was during the 2005 presidential campaign.

However, irregularities still take place abundantly. Adam writes about claims of the opposition at early stages of the campaign, and also on quite smart techniques employed by the authorities for attracting loyal foreign observers and for positive information coverage of the elections in the West. The opposition, in turn, tries to recruit support from owners of right-hand drive vehicles.

Ehot, a LiveJournal blogger, criticizes the opposition: “The real statesmen must have deeper insights into how the mechanisms shall work, not simply generate slogans” (RUS). Sav-age objects in the comment section: “Let the opposition make mistakes, learn by them, grow and get stronger. I am against unlimited power limited to one person”.

Weathercock, a Kazakhstani living in Australia, is a pessimist: “There is no opposition in Kazakhstan, as well as separation of powers, independent press etc etc” (RUS). Meanwhile, the opinion polls show that the opposition Social Democratic Party has all chances to win at least 20%, running in closely after the ruling “Nur Otan” party.

Count-asylum, referring to a discussion on the ZonaKz forum, comments on shady manipulations in an interactive poll on the official website of “Nur-Otan”. After the counter showed that the Social Democrats would win over the party in power, the results were bluntly annulled. “Even Internet voting cannot go without fraud”, he jokes bitterly (RUS).

A-strekoza is bored with the campaign: “‘Nur-Otan’ held an Open Doors Day, which was a complete circus. The discussion was about petty larcenies in condos and miseries of an old lady getting stuck in a lift regularly. The latter was accompanied by tears. I wonder, did she get extra payment for that?”

Hackuna from Ekibastuz (Central Kazakhstan) is unhappy with the political consultants, with whom he was unfortunate enough to deal recently: “They are totally inadequate, but they make good money now without any stress whatsoever. They can work for 22 candidates simultaneosly and render several minutes a day to each. Just make a fuss and intimidate a candidate with possible provocations – and he is wholly yours” (RUS).

However, the blogosphere's attention to votes and elections is not only limited to the parliament. KZBlog informs about interactive contest to vote for the sexiest CIS President. “The poll is led by V. Putin. Nazarbayev only got 0.9% of the votes, putting him last except for Rakhmon (Tajikistan) and Karimov (Uzbekistan)”. Wondernews is bewildered by another piece of news – a Kazakhstani girl who won Grand Prix during a striptease dance contest: “I don't know whether it's good or bad news. But Borat should definitely make use of it”, he says (RUS).

James of neweurasia reacts on a recent article of an American expert that claims that autocracies are allegedly more successful in promoting economic growth. “Economic growth for economic growth’s sake misses the point. More important are questions about the nature of the economic growth and whom it benefits”, he stresses. In another piece he reviews the perspectives of Kazakhstan's bid for OSCE chairmanship, saying that “the recent reforms to Kazakhstan’s constitution, however, have basically ensured that the OSCE leadership will look like a bunch of hypocrites should Kazakhstan get what it wants”.

Derek, an author who kept a close eye on the trial of the American businessman Mark Seidenfeld in Kazakhstan, was glad to inform that the court cleared the defendant of all charges. However, ARNA, a company for which Seidenfeld used to work and where he allegedly misused funds, protested against the court decision and is intent to challenge it in higher instances (RUS).

Registan features a post on the envonmental catastrophe on Balkhash Lake (Central Kazakhstan), which is threatened by water diversion projects in China. “It seems the lake faces many threats beyond China’s internal colonization and ill-conceived water projects. The copper factories of the nearby towns have apparently so poisoned the land grass no longer grows”.

The community of bloggers from Almaty featured a poll on how do the people manage with the lack of money. Apparently, most Kazakhstanis prefer to borrow money from friends and relatives, or from the employer, and only 23 per cent are ready to take credit from a bank (RUS).

Steve Le Vine shares fresh rumors on the so-called Rakhatgate, the affair of ex-ambassador to Austria and former son-in-law of President Nazarbayev, Rakhat Aliyev. He fell in disgrace after a number of accusations brought forward against him by the Kazakh law enforcement bodies and currently awaits his extradition, which Astana expects to happen in August. “The word is that Aliyev… has met with U.S. Justice Department lawyers in Vienna. The subject: his possible testimony in the upcoming foreign bribery trial of James Giffen”, he says.

But the “Aliev Affair” was well overshadowed by the doping scandal during the Tour de France, a premiere world cycling event. The leader of “Team Astana”, the most promising breakthrough of the season sponsored by the Kazakh government, was disqualified from the race after alleged blood transfusion. Ben of neweurasia comments: “Astana’s display during the fifteen stages has not been very conducive to Kazakhstan’s image: Known as “Team Borat”, it was protected by muscley bodyguards, it never signed the official Anti-Doping statement, and was keeping communication with the press at a bare minimum”.

The Kazakhstani blogosphere was furious, many bloggers believing that the scandal was a set-up provocation. “French cyclists rallied against doping, while their bosses literally “buried” Vinokurov in their interviews. The saddest thing is to read that organizers of the race don't want this or that cyclist to become a winner”, writes xxrock. Mkaa is very upset: “Disgusting and mean. It is a clear provocation of the French” (RUS). The kazakhstan community on LiveJournal even tried to stage a flash-mob in support of Vinokurov and Team Astana, who, in the opinion of milis-kz became “the victims of arbitrariness and insinuations of the race administrators and anti-doping officials”.

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