Kazakhs amend election code, opposition cries foul
ALMATY: Kazakhstan published on Monday a new law banning street rallies during and after elections, and the opposition slammed the move as an attempt to stave off a possible Ukraine-style “people’s revolution”.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the oil-rich Central Asian nation since 1989, has watched with unease Georgia’s “Rose Revolution”, followed by Ukraine’s “orange” one, that brought West-leaning liberals to power.
In neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, violent popular protests toppled veteran President Askar Akayev last month.
Kazakhstan’s amended electoral code, which comes into force after being published in the official press, bans rallies and demonstrations during elections and until the publication of final official results.
“I have not the slightest doubt that the new law aims to nip in the bud street protests over possible electoral fraud in Kazakhstan that could repeat the events seen in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan,” said opposition spokesman Vladimir Kozlov.
“People’s revolutions” in the three ex-Soviet states were all sparked by flawed elections.
Kazakhstan, which aspires for the 2009 chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has itself never held an election judged free or fair by the West.
Kazakhstan’s central election commission has set a presidential election for December 2006. Nazarbayev has repeatedly said he would run for a new seven-year term.
“Kazakh authorities clearly realise that the election will be falsified anyway, and they are taking steps to avoid popular indignation and ward off a Ukraine-style scenario,” Kozlov said.
Nazarbayev, a 64-year-old former steelworker, says there is no social base for vast popular discontent in his resource-rich nation which has put in place rapid market reforms and achieved relative prosperity compared to other post-Soviet cousins.
But his rule has also been marked by clampdowns on dissent and stifling of independent mass media. reuters