This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Republic of Kazakhstan’s independence from the Soviet Union. In that short period, the Central Asian nation – which has the land mass of Western Europe – has become a success story both economically and politically…
And soon the country will demonstrate its progress when it comes to democracy. On April 3, Kazakhstan will hold a presidential election. On that day – in the country and around the world – the Kazakhs will show how far they’ve come in governance during the past two decades. I am certain that the elections will be both free and fair.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan just tightened its requirements for a Kazakh-language test for Presidential candidates, designed quite specifically (if not explicitly) to exclude Nazarbayev’s most credible candidates. As a result, a coalition of opposition parties have vowed to boycott the elections.
In its most recent report, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law wrote that, “even during the year of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OSCE, the freedom of peaceful assembly was not realized.” The Kazakh government under Nazarbayev allows peaceful assembly only if those assembling match some arbitrary condition of loyalty, and to this day not a single opposition group has been allowed to legally hold a rally, gathering, or event.
Anyway, you get the idea. Idrissov is correct that Kazakhstan’s economy has been nicely subsidized by its burgeoning oil wealth, and it is better off than the other Central Asian states. But that is hardly a reasonable comparison. It’s like saying Burma is a fine place because it’s not North Korea.
The real kick to Idrissov’s piece is when he says Kazakhstan is “the gateway to Russia and China and a loyal friend to the U.S. and the West.” He wants his country, understandably, to function as a middleman between the three large states seeking economic footholds in the region. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But the ambassador, desperate to put a happy face on an otherwise oppressive autocracy, is anything but a credible voice on Kazakhstan’s democratic ambitions.
- Global Integrity says Kazakhstan’s democratic institutions are not as bad as I suggest.
- The International Republican Institute: “Notwithstanding Kazakhstan’s regression toward one-party rule…”
- FreedomHouse ranks Kazakhstan behind Libya in its 2011 survey of political rights and civil liberties.
- The CSIS-IND Evaluation of Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship noted, “insufficient domestic progress in human rights and democratic progress.”
And more to follow, maybe…