Kazakhstan: Do Kazakh Politics Coincide with OSCE Standards?

The main issue on the local blogosphere’s agenda are politics again – Kazakhstan with its controversial, more and more Soviet-alike political system and continuously poor human rights record, has won the top post in the Europe’s leading democracy promoting institution, OSCE.

There are many speculations concerning the so-called “autocrats’ club of CIS countries”, in which its members allegedly exchange their experience and share practices – in treating media or conducting elections. Interestingly, b-ryskulov notes that during the televised hotline of President V. Putin several weeks ago, the Russian leader twice distinguished Kazakhstan specifically in a very praiseful context, utterly supporting President Nazarbayev.

“For some reason, Putin wanted to highlight Kazakhstan as compared to other neighbors, because I doubt that in such thoroughly-orchestrated event as TV show there could be any improvisations”, he says [ru].

Slavasay reflects on biographies of the Kazakh higher officials, who are usually appointed and fired by the president not one by one, but multiply. “It’s easier to shuffle this way”, he says, and adds, that in Kazakhstan – unlike Russia – acting or former officers of special services rarely enter the government. “The most famous of them was ex-premier (now exiled oppositionist) Akezhan Kazhegeldin. Incumbent prime minister Massimov also is rumored to have origins of his career in the “organs”, but he denies” [ru].

Finally, the OSCE chairmanship – despite flawed elections in 2005 and 2007 and dubious constitutional changes that include the “president-for-life” provisions – is won by Astana. “It is official. Kazakhstan will assume chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010, the bid for 2009 having failed. The official news agency of the government puts it optimistically, preferring to focus on the positive outcome rather than the failure”, Kzblog reports. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has issued press release condemning the decision on the grounds that Kazakhstan does not meet OSCE commitments.

Joshua Foust also analyzes the controversies and debates over the Kazakhstan's bid to chair the OSCE despite poor human rights and democracy record, calling all diplomatic bargainings around this issue an “ugly trade”. Slavasay agrees: “Well, the haggle is settled for 2010. Astana will have to do a lot to become a worthy chairman-in-office” [ru]. Adam-kesher says it’s “a big success for the Kazakh diplomats – and huge blow for the Organization”. Adam Kesher's reaction is pessimistic:

“Kazakhstan has again promised to hold reforms in 2008, including media law, decriminalization of defamation laws and liberalization of election legislation. However, disappointment and bewilderment are the most natural reactions to this news. It doesn’t matter that Kazakhstan promised to reform, because it didn’t do so earlier, and does not seem to do so now, while the Organization’s image is already undermined” [ru].

Epolet looks at the issue from a different – but very indicative – angle, demonstrating that image issues are very important for the Kazakhstan’s incumbent president. “Kazakh Chairmanship in the OSCE in 2010 coincides with Nursultan Nazarbayev’s 70-year jubilee, which will be celebrated with large scale festivities. The main event of the year 2008 – 10-year anniversary of Astana (the capital city, which was moved from Almaty by the president) – is going to be a rehearsal. The Day of Astana is celebrated on the same day with president’s birthday” [ru].

Cross-posted on neweurasia

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