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The Blair Rich Project

16 Nov

The jury is still out over the impact that Tony Blair Associates has had on Kazakhstan over the last two years. The former UK prime minister’s consultancy has been advising Astana on a variety of issues since October 2011 in a project dubbed by some observers as “The Blair Rich Project”.

While many Kazakhstan-watchers have pointed to a worsening of the human rights situation and a widespread crackdown in the country since the December 2011 Zhanaozen riots, when 15 protestors were killed, Tony’s crew has witnessed a somewhat different scene.

Using the rose-tinted spectacles supplied by Astana, Tony Blair Associates (TBA) rejected notions of a crackdown, telling the Guardian: “We simply do not agree that the situation in this regard has deteriorated.”

It seems they hadn’t spotted an opposition leader getting jailed for apparently organising the trouble in Zhanaozen, other dissenting political voices being neutered, the silencing of critical media outlets and a further scaling back of the right to free assembly.

The tw0-year contract has just finished and is supposedly up for renewal, but Lord Venal is sceptical it will be prolonged.

“Astana paid $26 million for the services of TBA and, quite frankly, were expecting a bit more Blair for their bucks,” he told Kazaxia.

Tony has only paid flying visits to Kazakhstan, deputising the work to others in his team as he globetrots around sorting out the planet’s problems.

“For that sort of money, Kazakhstan could have bought a million twitter shares (priced initially at $26 a pop), a bar of Kazakhstan chocolate for every person in the country, or around 20% of the Welsh wizard, Gareth Bale,” Lord Venal added.

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Another Busy Week for Kazakhstan’s Lawmakers?

4 Oct

Kazakhstan’s parliament has been sitting this last week and it has been grappling with one of the key issues that is preying on voter’s minds – same-sex relationships.

Never mind that many in this energy rich country are without running water and reliable energy supplies, or that some of the disaffected  have been turning to militant Islam in recent years. Lawmakers in the multi-party parliament, which consists of Nur Otan, the pro-presidential party, Ak Zhol, the pro-business and pro-presidential party, and the Communist pro-presidential party, have been getting hot under the collar over same-sex relationships.

As the debate was raging in parliament (or, more likely, deputy Bakhytbek Smagul took his colleagues on a rambling trip through his ill-informed thoughts on homosexuality), the head of the first department of the General Prosecutor’s Office, Almas Mukhamejanov, called for harsh penalties for another key issue in the country – human cloning.

Currently human cloning does not carry a custodial sentence in Kazakhstan, but Mukhamejanov suggested punishing human cloning by imprisonment for a term of 5 years, and up to 12 years if the crime was committed by an organized criminal group.

Kazaxia asked Lord Venal about these developments and he suggested that they might be linked to Tony Blair, who became a Catholic in 2007. His consultancy, Tony Blair Associates, is getting paid a packet (some sources claim $13 million a year) to advise Kazakhstan’s government.

Do the Blairites have a sinister anti-gay cloning message that they are trying to push onto the unsuspecting Kazakh public in the guise of consulting on governance?

Kazakhstan: In Praise of the First President

1 Dec

Lord Venal has seen fit to put pen to paper as Kazakhstan prepares to celebrate the Day of the First President on 1 December, the country’s newest public holiday.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev bestrides Kazakhstan like a colossus – his image beams down from billboards on nearly every street corner. The Park of the First President is a fixture of all major towns and cities. Every evening he tops the TV news agenda meeting with dignitaries, opening factories and winning EXPO 2017 bids.

The First President awaits visitors

The First President awaits visitors

Wildly loved by his adoring public – he won 96.5 % of the vote in the last election, The Leader of the Nation, as he is also known, has worked ceaselessly over the last twenty-two years as he has steered the good ship Kazakhstan through turbulent waters to leave the country becalmed in a sea of economic prosperity and political stagnation.

He is one of the world’s longest serving presidents – only a few presidents have kept the throne warmer for longer than the glorious leader – Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson and arch-rival Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan spring to mind.

Toys_4_NAN

The Nazarbayev University in his fairytale capital city, Astana, proudly carries his name as do a network of Nazarbayev Intellectual schools, which have mushroomed across Kazakhstan in recent years. The day cannot be far off when Nazarbayev kindergartens, fertility clinics and dating agencies will grace the provincial capitals.

I, along with my former cell mate, Jonathan Aitken, the famed hagiographer, who is in Astana to sing the praises of the First President yet again, would like to wish the Leader many happy returns on this the anniversary of the distant day back in 1991 when he won his first election along with the hearts of the Kazakh nation. Long may he reign – Kazakhstan’s very own Superkhan!

Kazakhstan: President Set to Annoint Successor

1 Apr

According to the Astana rumour-mill, Kazakhstan’s long-serving president Nursultan Nazarbayev is set to announce his plans for a ‘khandover’ of power – he is set to pass the baton to a young boy named Sultan, rumoured to be the leader’s son.

But there’s a catch – the change will not happen until at least 2046 when Sultan turns 40. President Nazarbayev, who is exempt from term limits, will be turning 115 when he steps down.

A spokesman close to the president confirmed this wait “According to the constitution, which can, of course, be amended on a whim at short notice, Sultanchick will have to wait until he reaches the age of 40 to take over from the incumbent. But he is happy to wait, as are the people of Kazakhstan, who are willing to wait indefinitely for the right man to take over”.

The President's spokesperson

“This move to appoint a new leader shows that Kazakhstan is firmly on the path to democracy. Sultan is our Khan!” the spokesman added.

Sultan was seen in public for the first time on 4 March at a hockey match in Astana with President Nazarbayev leaning across to chat with the young lad.  The appearance sparked heated debate in the local press about the kid’s identity.

Exiled opposition leader Mukhtar Aliyev, speaking from his secret hideout in the south of France, welcomed the news. “This shows that change is coming at last to Kazakhstan. Hopefully there’ll be a free and fair election in 2046,” he told kazaxia. His Algazat party is already preparing for the election.

Fugitive opposition leader Mukhtar Aliyev pictured at his secret hideaway

Experts on Kazakhstan agreed the scenario was workable. “This move will help to ensure a smooth succession in the corridors of power in Astana. It’s worked in North Korea, Azerbaijan and Syria so I don’t see why it can’t work in Kazakhstan”,  British politician and Akorda aficionado Lord Venal told kazaxia.

Kazakhstan Election 2012: Venal’s View

17 Jan

Kazaxia has received the following contribution from Britain’s Lord Venal, who was recently in Kazakhstan to observe the parliamentary elections.

I’ve just returned to Venal Towers after another successful observation trip to Kazakhstan (kindly subsidised by Kleptys Oil and Gas (KOG)) and I’d like to share my positive feelings that the election has left me with.

First off I’d like to offer my hearty congratulations to Kazakhstan as it enters an exciting new phase of multi-party democracy. The election itself was very well-managed and went off without a hitch in this vast country that straddles both Europe and Asia.

It was an early start on the Sunday as I was ferried to the nearest polling station from my diggings at the splendid Rixos Hotel. Polling was sluggish in the morning session, but that came as no surprise to me as Sundays are always slow to get off the ground in the Venal household. By the time my minder from KOG suggested a spot of lunch at 12.30 turnout was a somewhat low 6.9%.

After a splendid lunch – hospitality is something that Kazakhstan excels at – I was feeling a bit woozy so I retired to my suite for a quick power snooze. By the time I got back to the polling station at 18.30 there had been a surge in voter activity and the turnout stood at an impressive 79.1%.

The last 90 minutes of voting passed by quickly as we cracked open a few bottles of bubbly to celebrate a good day’s work. Then it was off to the KOG post-election party at a secret location where representatives of Kazakhstan’s high and mighty were schmoozed until the early hours.

When one has been observing elections as long as I have, one sometimes thinks that one has seen it all, but this election threw up a few surprises even for me. As I mentioned in my earlier report from the Presidential election last April, Kazakhstan has a splendid tradition of giving presents to senior citizens and first-time voters – take note Britain!

Some other innovations that could well prove popular in Britain included ‘carousel voting’ where the voters are taken by mini bus to different polling stations and ‘family voting‘ where a representative votes for all the family members.

My only regret is that the next elections in Kazakhstan will not be until 2016. But with KOG’s new contacts made at the post-election bash, I’m sure I will be visiting these shores again in the not too distant future.

(Editor’s note: Lord Venal is a contributor to this blog and his views are not necessarily those of Kazaxia) 

Thunderbird flying in to Kazakhstan?

30 Sep

When Kazaxia spotted this intriguing headline ‘Thunderbird expands to Kazakhstan‘, it immediately invoked distant memories of teenage parties and getting hammered on the notorious American drink Thunderbird. Described politely as ‘a low-end fortified wine’ this noxious mix of chemicals was well-known as a quick fire route to oblivion.

A bottle of Thunderbird in its natural setting (image taken from bumwine.com)

It was with interest that Kazaxia clicked on to the link to the headline – was this really an attempt by E&J Gallo Winery, the makers of this interesting drinking experience, to break the stranglehold of vodka and cheap port wine as the drink of choice for Kazakhstan’s down and outs?

Alas for Central Asia’s winos, it was not to be as this Thunderbird turned out to be merely a management training company. Or maybe not …

The bumwine website describes Thunderbird wine as

If your taste buds are shot, and you need to get trashed with a quickness, then “T-bird” is the drink for you.  Or, if you like to smell your hand after pumping gas, look no further than Thunderbird.  As you drink on, the bird soars higher while you sink lower.  

Kazaxia contacted Lord Venal on the subject of Thunderbird and he waxed lyrical about his misspent youth spent on park benches drinking the wino’s favourite tipple.

I vaguely remember climbing out of the window of my boarding school and making for the village shop where I’d buy a bottle of Thunderbird and proceed to get well and truly ratarsed.

recalled the sometime election observer.

When my eye started twitching, I decided it was time to call it a day and moved on to more respectable tipples.

The good lord expressed surprise that it was actually a training organisation and wondered whether it would be interested in funding a trip to monitor the upcoming elections in Kyrgyzstan, maybe in a tie-up with the E&J Gallo Winery?


Kazakhstan Bank Boss for IMF?

24 May

Lord Venal is back with this contribution on the head of the National Bank of Kazakhstan being put forward for the top spot at the IMF recently vacated by Dominique Strauss-Kahn in controversial circumstances. 

It is no surprise that Grigoriy Marchenko,  a name that is highly respected in international banking circles, has been chosen by that august body the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as its man for the top job at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Under his skillful stewardship as head of Kazakhstan’s central bank, this oil-rich nation has successfully rode the choppy waves of the global financial crisis to emerge as a real contender to join the elite GoGUN club.

In the light of the sex scandal that has engulfed the former head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, many observers feel that a wholesome family guy is needed to fill this key post and who better than Mr Marchenko, who according to this site has already got the job.

Mr Marchenko  has told reporters that he does not plan to bother any maids if he makes it to the hot seat.  I can personally vouch for his good character – last summer I was pottering about the Med in the Venal family pedalo when I spotted some familiar faces on board a splendid-looking yacht.  Some Kazakh bigwigs invited me to join them and we all had a great time partying until the wee small hours. I cannot recall seeing Mr Marchenko on the yacht, in fact I cannot recall much of anything.

Back in the UK, it seems Dave and Nick are backing France’s Christine Lagarde for the post – I really must have a word with them about Grigoriy as I feel he is definitely the right man at the right time.