Tuesday, August 21, 2007

democracy in Kazakhstan

The ruling party of Nur Oltan won the national election with 88% of the vote. And none of the other contending parties got the required minimum 7% of the vote, which would have entitled them to take seats in the parliament. From Radio Free Europe: "Nazarbaev said the Nur Otan victory was logical, and that all Kazakh citizens stand to benefit from the election results." And anyone who disagreed would presumably be made ambassador to some country far away.

Bonnie Boyd has a very interesting counterpoint to all of this. Whether we're talking about post-Soviet or post-Borat, the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan has entangled itself in a net of suspicion and skepticism (which may or may not be of its own making) and I'd agree with Bonnie's characterization of popular opinion in saying that I expect elections in Kazakhstan to be rigged and that process to be opaque. One element of her counterpoint is that both the Austrian government (in the case of Rakhat-gate) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) (in the case of Kazakhstan's aspirations to chairing the organization) are being no more forthright and equally obfuscatory in their treatment of Most Glorious Nation.

Radio Free Europe has another interesting story about how the recent elections in Kazakhstan might serve as a dubious example for the other post-Soviet, arguable neo-autocrats in and around the Ferghana Valley.

Our favorite Kyrgyz blogger Azamat was part of the Kyrgyz contingent of OSCE observers monitoring the elections and his last couple of blogs are quite interesting... nice picture, too, of the Bayterek Tower.

Azamat makes some comparisons between Astana and Almaty. We were in Almaty in December, 2004. It had been almost seven years since my wife had been there for the Peace Corps. And while it was great to meet old friends of hers from her two years there, the city was clearly in a period of tremendous growth. As Volodya drove us from the clearly very new airport in Almaty, we were somewhat dazzled by the very smooth, evenly lit access road into the city lined with Audi and Porsche dealerships.

Almaty was fun to see -- but because it had 19thC boulevards, camels being driven along the main streets, a Mad Max-esque public transportation system (till that point I'd never been in a bus that was spontaneously driven onto the pavement to get around a car in the wrong lane!), and shashlyk and lipioshka vendors with clay ovens and grills built into the sidewalk.

OOOH: congratulations to my favorite State Department smart guy, Evan Feigenbaum, and his wife, on the birth of their first child, Alexander.

1 comment:

Azamat said...

I am flattered by your comments. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog and suggestions for books on Afghanistan. Will try to get them here in Bishkek, at least borrow them from someone.

Kazakhstan in general is developing very fast, and thus changing quickly too. I am glad they moved the capital from polluted and overcrowded Almaty to Astana. In 5 or 10 years, KZ will be unrecognizable. KG will just tag along. :)

Will be looking forward to reading more of your posts.