Accessibility links

Kazakhstan: Opposition Party Joins Election Race

  • Bruce Pannier --> Late yesterday, Kazakhstan's Justice Ministry registered the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) party. DVK is the 10th political party to be registered ahead of the country's October parliamentary elections, but only one of a few representing the political opposition. RFE/RL looks at the newly registered party, its goals, and its chances in the autumn vote.

Prague, 5 May 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Talgat Manaev, the deputy chairman of the Kazakh Justice Ministry's party-registration committee, confirmed the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) party had been formally registered.

"I gave the certificate of registration to [one of the DVK leaders,] Zauresh Battalova. The party has fulfilled all its registration requirements. We found no serious problems with the party's registration documents," Manaev said.

Battalova confirmed the party had been registered. "As of today, Kazakhstan has one more registered political party, the 10th party, and a party for the people: the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan party. I received the registration documents from the Justice Ministry," she said.

Registration didn't come easily for the DVK. Founded in 2001 by a small group of lawmakers and former government officials, the group -- which has shed unwelcome attention on state corruption scandals -- has long aimed at winning official party status.

Just months after its creation, DVK was already coming in direct conflict with central authorities. Two of its leaders -- former regional Governor Ghalymzhan Zhiqiyanov, and former Energy Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov -- were jailed on criminal charges. A third, Uraz Jondosov, left the movement soon afterward and formed a less controversial party, Ak Zhol.

Stripped of its leadership, DVK seemed in danger of fading away. It did not even attempt to register with the Justice Ministry after a July 2002 change in election law requiring the reregistration of all political parties and movements. But by February this year, the movement had regained its momentum, holding a founding congress and announcing its intention to become a party.

In line with the country's new political-party law, the DVK gathered well over the 50,000 member signatures needed for party registration. But pro-government media soon began to question whether the signatures were legitimate, suggesting the DVK had used the names of minors and the deceased in order to boost its membership.

The outlook grew even more grim amid claims that DVK members were being targeted for harassment. Batyrkhan Darimbet, a member of the DVK's political council, last week described the pressure being applied against party members in Kazakhstan's southwestern Mangystau Oblast.

"I just came from Mangystau Oblast on [26 April]. What I learned, what I saw there, is that local authorities are putting pressure on members of our party. I was in several towns. It's the same in all of them. About 10 or 15 days ago, representatives of regional akimiyats [administrative leaders] came to [the DVK members] and warned them they would have problems if they continue, as these representatives put it, 'being members of an anti-[President Nursultan ]Nazarbaev party.' They even threatened [the DVK members], saying they could be convicted as enemies of the nation. And there are many people who were frightened and left the party," Darimbet said.

The DVK says it has 78,000 members, making it one of the smallest registered parties.

Of the other nine official parties, only the Communists have a platform distinct from that of the current government. Unlike the Communists, however, the DVK -- whose founding leadership included a number of entrepreneurs -- is adopting a socially liberal, pro-business stance.

By registering, the DVK has cleared one significant hurdle. But with five months remaining until the elections, there is ample opportunity for the party to meet with further resistance.

(Sultan Khan Zhussip of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service contributed to this report.)