Kazakhstan: Adventures in Democracy

9 Oct

Lord Venal has been on the observation trail once again – here are his reflections from his recent trip to Kazakhstan to observe the Senate elections [Editor's note: This was in an unofficial capacity as Lord Venal is barred from observer missions after last year's vicious smear campaign orchestrated by the Azeri authorities]

Democracy is inching along in Kazakhstan with the free and fair elections to the country’s upper chamber, the Senate, paying testament to this.

“We have been witnesses to an open and democratic electoral process. We congratulate the people of Kazakhstan and the election organizers,” Kazakhstan’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) told Spain’s EFE news agency, reported Fox News Latino.

The ruling Nur Otan party, loyal to the Leader of the Nation Nursultan Nazarbayev, swept the board gaining every seat in the new-look Senate.

Some 250 observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were present for the vote on October 1.

Those party-poopers at The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe did not send observers due to the “indirect” nature of the elections, CEC Chairman Kuandyk Turgankolov said.

The Senate consists of 47 members – 15 are appointed by President Nazarbayev and the others are elected by the lower house, the Mazhilis, with 16 places up for grabs every three years. The senators serve a six-year term.

Could not the UK learn a lesson from Kazakhstan in these matters? The House of Lords, where I sit, is an unelected body. Maybe the Queen, as Head of State, could appoint some of its members with the rest selected by a vote in the House of Commons?

Googoosha – How Dare!

17 Sep

Shocking photos of a haggard looking Gulnara Karimova grappling with a police officer have been leaked from Uzbekistan.

In the words of one of her famous songs in her guise of pop diva Googoosha, she seems to be saying ‘How Dare‘ to the cop.

Let’s hope she’s not giving her captors the ‘Round Run‘ in those nice slippers.

Karimova is the eldest daughter of President Islam Karimov. She has suffered a spectacular fall from grace spending the last seven months under house arrest in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital.

Kokpar Scandal Rocks World Nomad Games

12 Sep

The first edition of the World Nomad Games, currently being held in Kyrgyzstan, have been rocked by scandal as Kazakhstan refused to send a team to compete in kokpar, the fast and furious horseback sport akin to polo but played with a headless goat carcass.

Its absence will be felt at these games as last September Kazakhstan became the first ever Asian champions of the sport when it defeated fierce rivals Kyrgyzstan 4-2 in the final held in Kazakhstan’s snazzy capital Astana.

kazaxia took to twitter to determine why Kazakhstan hadn’t sent a team to the games in Kyrgyzstan. One observer, Edil Baisalov, noted that the Kazakhs “insist on a different set of rules” which they claim were “adopted at the Asian championship in Astana last year”.

The other countries disagreed with this version of events, Baisalov added.

Kokpar,  better known as ‘buzkashi’ in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, is not a sport traditionally hidebound by rules.  In the past kokpar games were a free-for-all that could last for hours.

Now, seeking to appeal to a wider audience and the television market, there have been suggestions that the sport be regulated with two 45-minute halves and restrictions on team sizes.

The version played in Afghanistan has been suggested as an international model with rules developed by the Afghan Olympic Federation. These rules suggest that:

For championship Buzkashi in Kabul, teams are limited to ten riders each. Five players take the field during the first 45 minutes of play; the other five compete during the second period. A field master presides over the match and has the authority to prolong the game and grant permission for a change of riders or horses. The halftime break lasts for 15 minutes.

The World Nomad Games, being held in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, by the shores of Lake Issyk Kul, brings together competitors from countries with a nomadic tradition for a six-day festival of traditional sports. The games culminate on 14 September.

Besides kokpar, the sports include horse races, wrestling on horse back, contact sports based on wrestling, eagle hunting, and the more cerebral ordo, and toguz korgool, a board game related to mankala.  For more information on these sports, check out here.

Independent Scotland to Join Russia-led Customs Union?

5 Sep

With just under a fortnight to go until Scotland goes to the polls to decide whether to leave the United Kingdom, support for the yes camp has come from a surprising source – Russia.

Sergi Lossossoff a prominent figure in the world of Russian business, told kazaxia that Scotland would find a ready ally in Russia if it were to go down the rocky road to freedom.

“As a representative of the people of the ancient Rus, I think it is a great step that Scotland is taking to free itself from the tyranny of the crypto-fascist-Banderov London pseudo state. As we saw in Crimea, when people are given their voice, free from tyranny and oppression, they want to join Russia,” Lossossoff told kazaxia.

“Scotland would be welcome in the Eurasian Economic Union. The European Union is a decadent monolith that has had its day. Russia, along with the other members, [Belarus, Kazakhstan and possibly Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Vanuatu and North Korea] would be only too glad to have as much haggis and whisky as our little Scottish brothers could supply,”he continued in reference to concerns that have been raised as to Scotland’s future in the European Union were it to vote yes.

There has been much talk about whether Scotland could retain the pound after independence. Lossossoff feels that Scotland need not worry about this as it could easily adopt the rouble to its benefit. “With the current parlous state of Russia’s currency, Scots with savings of just £16,500 [at current exchange rates] would immediately be turned into [rouble] millionaires,” he quipped.

Defence is another area that would not be an issue as Russia has unlimited supplies of ‘little green men’ who could be parachuted in at a moment’s notice to defend the territorial integrity of Scotland, according to Lossossoff, who has had meetings with his drinking buddy Captain Haddock, who is widely tipped to be Minister of Defence in any new Scottish state.

As to the question of the BBC’s role in a free Scotland, Lossossoff said that “Russia has always been a champion of a free and fair media, and unlike the biased BBC, we have a model in Russia Today that Scotland would do well to follow.”

Kazakhstan: The Axe-Man Cometh

7 Aug

President Nazarbayev returned to Kazakhstan from his July holidays as a man on a mission to trim back the excesses of his government’s bloated bureaucracy.

It must have been an uncomfortable experience for the government bigwigs assembled in Akorda, the president’s Astana HQ, as the axe fell repeatedly with ministries and agencies being culled and merged left, right and centre. After the dust had settled, Kazakhstan was left with 12 ministries from its former tally of 17.

Kazaxia has had a look at some of the main changes: the biggest shock was the merging of the Family Affairs and Nepotism ministries, bringing the bodies for providing jobs for clan and family members and other assorted hangers-on under one umbrella. This is set to cause some friction in the months ahead as former ministers scrabble to place their kith and kin in cushy numbers. It should be a bloody battle with the trough having been significantly downsized.

The Ministry of Privatisations was merged with the Nationalisation Ministry in a move that will effectively paralyse attempts by Astana to either buy or sell its ailing industrial base. The Corruption Agency was brought under the auspices of the Ministry for Investment to streamline procedures for investors.

The energy sector also saw major changes. The Agency for Renewable Energy was subsumed by the Ministry for Fossil Fuels to create a powerful lobby group for the extractive industries. Eco fanatics will be further enraged by the decision to place the Environmental Protection Agency under the wing of the Ministry for Urban Development. This should pave the way for controversial projects such as the Kok-Zhailau ski resort to proceed unhindered.

How’s the Psychic Saiga Shaping Up?

23 Jun

Psychic Saiga Predicts World Cup Winner

12 Jun

A  saiga with psychic powers, located in a secret location somewhere on the steppe in Kazakhstan is predicting a victory for Argentina in the 2014 World Cup Final in Brazil.

Eingebaute Klimaanlage. Die bucklige Nase hilft den Saiga-Antilopen, Atemluft anzuwärmen und abzukühlen. So kommt sie im extremen Wetter der Steppe zurecht. Foto: dpa

A shaman contacted kazaxia  about the psychic saiga – it points a horn at one of two lamb bones bearing an etching of the national flags of the competing teams to select the winner. The unnamed saiga predicts that Argentina will triumph over England in the final. Brazil and Germany will be the unlucky losing semi-finalists, with the Germans grabbing third place on penalties.

For the competition’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia the long-nosed antelope refused to select a bone, suggesting the game could be a draw. For more predictions you can follow @psychicsaiga on twitter.

Saigas, which are members of the antelope family, once roamed the Eurasian steppe from the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and the Caucasus into Mongolia and Dzungaria. Their numbers are now critically endangered with herds restricted to  areas of Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.  

 

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