Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

Andijan events cause Kazakhstani officials to re-examine domestic policies

Publisher EurasiaNet
Author Ibragim Alibekov
Publication Date 27 May 2005
Cite as EurasiaNet, Andijan events cause Kazakhstani officials to re-examine domestic policies, 27 May 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46c58ee9c.html [accessed 18 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Ibragim Alibekov 5/27/05

The recent violence in Uzbekistan is prompting Kazakhstani leaders to re-examine their domestic policies. As a result, some political analysts believe Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev's administration may expand economic development efforts while backing away from measures designed to tighten government control over the country's civic sector.

The Kazakhstani government has appeared reluctant to comment on recent developments in neighboring Uzbekistan, which began with the Andijan tragedy of May 13. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Kazakhstani media outlets generally portrayed the Andijan events as the work of militants driven to action because of the desperate economic circumstances in Uzbekistan.

"The latest events in the Ferghana Valley, which Uzbek President Islam Karimov described as religious extremism, show that the number of supporters of radical ideas is growing year by year there. But it is more likely that this has been caused by the economic situation in the area," said a commentary broadcast May 15 by the Khabar television channel.

One of the few high-profile political figures to comment on the situation has been Dariga Nazarbayeva, the president's daughter and a member of parliament. In comments broadcast by Khabar on May 20, Nazarbayeva suggested that both Uzbek authorities and the anti-government protesters and militants were responsible for the Andijan events.

Political analysts in Almaty and Astana suggest that the relative reticence of Kazakhstani officials may be indicative indecision on how to respond to the crisis. "It appears to me that everyone needs to calm down now," Nazarbayeva told Khabar. "The time has come to take serious and responsible decisions."

Some political analysts, noting that Kazakhstan is scheduled to hold a presidential election in 2006, have suggested the country could get caught up in the revolutionary trend that has spread across the former Soviet Union over the last 18 months. In recent years, the Nazarbayev administration has tightened his grip over Kazakhstan's political sphere, and has taken steps to prevent the possibility of election-related political unrest. The most notable recent move was the implementation of legal amendments to ban political rallies between election day and the announcement of official results. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

At the same time, Nazarbayev has taken advantage of the country's abundant reserves of natural resources to authorize a vast increase in social spending. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Recent Uzbek developments may cause Kazakhstani leaders to recalibrate their policies, perhaps encouraging them to maintain the relative openness of the country's civic sector. "In Uzbekistan, we see that a very tough regime hasn't saved Karimov from civil disobedience," said a political analyst who is familiar with government thinking.

The Andijan events may indirectly benefit non-governmental organizations in Kazakhstan, some local observers suggest. Parliament has been considering amendments to legislation governing NGO activity in Kazakhstan. Local NGO activists have complained that the legislation, if implemented, would establish effective governmental control over the actions on non-profit organizations dedicated to building civil society in the country. The amendments had appeared virtually certain to win parliamentary passage. Over the last week or so, however, officials have dropped hints that the attempt to change the NGO law may be abandoned.

Some observers believe Nazarbayev might also be open to easing pressure on opposition activity. Such speculation is based largely on a statement issued recently by the government-supported Council on Democratization that condemned recent attacks against a prominent opposition leader. In one attack, a group of thugs on May 2 disrupted an organizational meeting in Shymkent sponsored by the For a Fair Kazakhstan movement. As they broke up the meeting, the ruffians reportedly threatened to kill the opposition movement's leader, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Meanwhile, the president recently sent a powerful signal to his opponents, indicating that those who abandon their anti-administration activities would be handsomely rewarded.

On May 20, Bank TuranAlem, one of Kazakhstan's leading commercial banks, announced the appointment of Mukhtar Ablyazov as its board chairman. Ablyazov was a founder of the opposition movement Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan in 2001. Given its wide support within the business community, DCK posed a serious challenge to Nazarbayev's authority. In 2002, the president took swift action to undermine the opposition movement, locking up Ablyazov and another leader Galimzhan Zhakiyanov. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Following a trial in 2002, Ablyazov was found guilty on abuse-of-power charges brought in connection with his tenure as trade and industry minister from 1998-99. Ablyazov maintained that his prosecution was politically motivated. In May 2004, Ablyazov was paroled, providing assurances that he would not get involved in politics. Political observers say that Ablyazov would not have secured the board chair's post at TuranAlem bank without Nazarbayev's blessing.

Editor's Note: Ibragim Alibekov is a pseudonym for a regional journalist.

Posted May 27, 2005 © Eurasianet

Copyright notice: All EurasiaNet material © Open Society Institute

Search Refworld