Kazakhstan: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

20 Jan

Kazaxia has received the following contribution from Dr Boris B. Eltway of the Free University of Trans-Dniester Moldavian Republic on the recent election in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan has just been to the polls in what many observers are hailing as a major step forward on the long, rocky road to democracy. In the wake of Nur Otan’s crushing victory Astana is soaking up the plaudits for moving from a one-party parliament to a multi-party one with room being made in parliament for two other parties.

But hang on a minute, this is hardly Myanmar or some such place we’re discussing here. The one-party parliament only came about as no other party was able to exceed the seven percent threshold in 2007’s election. In 2004 Kazakhstan had a multi-party parliament with five political forces represented, including an earlier incarnation of Ak Zhol when it was a genuine opposition party, although it only took up its seat after a split in the party. So is this really a step forward?

Now the president’s party Nur Otan is being kept company by the latest model of Ak Zhol and The Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan (not to be confused with the outlawed Communist Party of Kazakhstan). We have a very cosy little parliament with Ak Zhol a pro-business party, the split-off commies on the left and the center dominated by the party of power. Both the newcomers are pro-presidential – no statements were made in the election campaign to suggest otherwise.

In fact, very few issues were mentioned in the campaign anyway. The elephants in the corner – terrorism and industrial unrest were kept off the agenda and the massacre in Zhanaozen was deftly spun by the state-controlled media as being down to mysterious ‘third forces’ and oil company executives mishandling the situation.

That these two new arrivals are sham opposition parties is not under discussion in Astana – it is enough for the spin doctors and window dressers to merely be able to provide a semblance of a functioning democracy to the outside world.

Real power remains in the hands of one man – no matter how many parties are represented in parliament be they sham or genuine opposition, it remains a toothless, rubber-stamp body that carries out the orders of the executive without question.

The people of Kazakhstan deserve better from their leaders and from their nascent democracy.



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