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    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Election farce in Kazakhstan

    Ninety-eight out of ninety-eight.

    That's how many seats the suling Nur Otan party won in this weekend's parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan, which were held early in a bid to demonstrate the Central Asian nation's democractic progress and to bolster the President Nursultan Nazarbayev's effort to seek the chair of the 56-country Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2009.

    By any standards, the election clearly demonstrated the opposite. OSCE monitors sent to observe the election found reported instances of multiple voting (for Nur Otan), falsified signatures (by Nur Otan) and votes cast for opposition parties counted that were counted for Nur Otan.

    Officially, Nazarbayev's party won 88 per cent of the vote - which by my rough math makes him 18 per cent more autocratic than Vladimir Putin (who most opinion polls say has around 70 per cent support) and 11 per cent shy of Saddam Hussein in his salad days.

    When Leonid Kuchma and Edurad Shevardnadze were found committing fraud on a far less audacious scale, the West refused to recognize the results of the votes and supported Ukrainians and Georgians as they overthrew their governments.

    Not in Kazakhstan. There's far too much oil at stake here, and while Nazarbayev might not tolerate opposition parties or a free press, he does allow Western oil companies to operate as long as he gets a cut.

    The biggest disgrace is that somewhere in all this both the U.S. State Department the OSCE election observer mission were able to find and laud "welcome progress" towards democracy in Kazakhstan. I'm embarrassed that a fellow Canadian, Senator Consiglio Di Nino, was able to say with a straight face that "notwithstanding the concerns contained in the report, the elections continue to move Kazakhstan forward in its evolution toward a democratic country."

    Before spouting such nonsense, Sen. Di Nino should have pondered if he was seeing the complete picture, given the recent New York Times report on how Kazakh intelligence - at Nazarbayev's behest - conspired to mislead OSCE monitors during the 2005 presidential elections.

    Perhaps the OSCE is indeed fit to have Kazakhstan as its chair.


    Anonymous said...

    Last year, American Vice President Dick Cheney blasted Russia's internal situation and lauded Kazakhstan's. Brzezinski did the same several years earlier during a PBS NewsHour panel with Charles William Maynes. Any reasonable observer of this matter knows that Russia is freer than Kazakhstan. What motivated Cheney to suggest differently is a combination of his:
    - fossil fuel business ties which make Kazakhstan an attractive venue
    - sympathy with the Anders Aslund (among others) approach that close ties between Russia and other former Soviet republics should be discouraged

    If Kazakhstan appears to draw more closer to Russia (some feel this is the case over the past year), look for that former Soviet republic's human rights record to be made more of an issue.

    Anonymous said...

    This morning's aired in NY BBC had a feature on children who work in Kazakhstan's dangerous mines.

    All things considered, Kazakhstan appears to be the most stable of the former Soviet central Asian republics.

    markmac said...

    Yes, Russia is indeed freer than Kazakhstan. I share your disgust at the Western double-standards in dealing with Nazarbayev's regime.

    As you said, it's all about fossil fuels.

    JTapp said...

    Azerbaijan's elections aren't much different, though I would argue it's a little more stable.

    Anonymous said...

    If so, I've to wonder by how much?

    Foreign policy wise, Azerbaijan is the more problematical, as per its relations with Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh. I understand Azerbaijan to not be on the best of terms with Iran. Rather interestingly, Iran tends to side more with mostly Christian populated Armenia over mostly Muslim populated Azerbaijan. This apparently has something to do with prior Turkic-Persian rivalry in that part of the world. In Iran, there's a significant Armenian minority which is seen as loyal to Iran. On the other hand, as I understand, Iran is suspicious about some Azeris having claims on some present day Iranian territory.

    La Russophobe said...


    You have no data whatsoever to support your claim that Kazakhstan is "freer" than Russia (you certainly cite none, and in fact Kazakhstan has outscored Russia on several international evaluations for good government), and its level of freedom hardly matters where our national security is concerned. Kazakhstan is a major bulwark against Russian's neo-Soviet aggression in places like Georgia, which you yourself have condemned, and Kazakhstan cannot be accused of similar aggression against its neighbors. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the US concluding Russia is a bigger threat to US security than Kazakhstan (which in fact poses none at all) and choosing the lesser of evils. So it has been since the dawn of time.

    To be sure, Kazakhstan's elections are sub-optimal in terms of democracy. I hope to see an equally acidic piece attacking Russia when exactly the same thing happens in a few months from now, and mentioning at the same time Russia's wanton provocation of a new cold war -- something you can't even think of accusing Kazakhstan of doing. The US hasn't taken any serious steps to block anti-democratic "elections" in Russia, so suggesting it do so in Kazakhstan first is rather silly. Kazakhstan is a far smaller problem for democracy than Russia.

    You also fail to mention Kazakhstan's decades of enslavement by Russia, during which time Russia continuously subverted its culture and economy, nor do you mention Russia's ongoing efforts to this date. In light of that, some degree of paranoia on the part of the regime is understandable.

    Sometimes, I genuinely wonder whose side you 're on. If by forsaking and alienating Kazakhstan we suffer a loss in the new cold war, will you be sanguine? If so, your ability to advise the west is dubious indeed.

    Anonymous said...

    Kazkahstan is freer than Russia?

    The northern half of the Communist created Kazakhstan was southern Siberia. It still comprises a majority of Russocentric Russians, ukrainians and Belarusians.

    The Kazahkh government hasn't bought into the anti-Russian BS of outside (of the region) agitators.

    markmac said...


    I don't need "data" to back my assertion that Russia is currently freer than Kazakhstan. As someone who has worked in both places, I can tell you that it is. And I can give you a list of Kazakh journalists, politicians and human rights workers who will agree with me.

    Though I generally admire your work, I have to say that your defense of the Nazarbayev regime and willingness to defend its repression of the Kazakh people is bizarre and verges on undermining a lot of what you write.

    The West has too often put "our national security" (your words) ahead of the interests and desires of the people who live in the countries that "we" meddle in. The U.S. aids and abets pro-democracy uprisings in Georgia and Ukraine, then applauds the autocrat in Almaty. Why?

    Such bending of our principles, has given rise to cynicism and anti-Western sentiment across not only the former Soviet Union, but more importantly the Muslim world.

    As I've said before I'm on neither side in this new cold war. You're right to criticize and attack the current Kremlin for its many dangerous failings. But we do ourselves a disservice when we ignore the blunders of the West and the people harmed by them.

    Best -


    Anonymous said...


    What's to admire about someone or perhaps more than one person misrepresenting others with half truths and outright lies?

    An individual (or perhaps individuals) who does so in an anonymous mannner, while having turned down a media invitation to appear with one of its targets?

    When it comes to admiration, there're more worthy folks out there.

    La Russophobe said...


    It's quite disturbing that you so blithely dismiss the need for evidence and claim to have a list in your pocket that you won't read. You sound just like one Joe McCarthy.

    I don't appreciate your twisting my words, either. I made no "defense of the Nazarbayev regime and willingness to defend its repression of the Kazakh people." I defended U.S. unwillingness to provoke him into the Russian camp and said that he is not as offensive as Putin (mostly because he's not nearly as powerful or dangerous). We are quite properly using Kazakhstan against Russia as we used Russia against Nazi Germany, and as Russia used us. Talk about bizarre! Your flower child fantasy that we should subordinate our national security interests to your personal ideals utterly obliterates your credibility. If you are saying that, forced to choose between living the rest of your life in the US or Russia you could not decide, that's perhaps the most bizarre thing I've ever heard.

    If you really feel that the people of Kazakhstan are "repressed" then you are grossly negligent. You have not devoted one single post on this blog to documenting such repression of any particular individual and have only written two posts about the country. Shame on you for ignoring their plight!

    Anonymous said...

    FYI: it was the USSR that was allied against Nazi Germany. Russia was a part of it. Post Soviet Rusia isn't the USSR or Nazi Germany.

    As previously communicated, it's regretable that Mark praised an anonymous person or persons, who choose to slur others with half truths and outright lies. Some other folks are more worthy of praise.