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Kazakh Official Defends Chairmanship Bid Before OSCE Panel

  • Jean-Christophe Peuch

Kazakh Secretary of State Kanat Saudabaev addresses the OSCE's Permanent Council (OSCE) VIENNA, September 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh State Secretary Kanat Saudabaev says he is confident his country's bid to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009 will be accepted later this year.


Talking to reporters September 20 after addressing the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, Saudabaev said the atmosphere of the discussions that followed his speech inspired him "with a very strong optimism that the organization will make a fair and right decision in favor of Kazakhstan."


The Permanent Council is the OSCE's main decision-making body. It convenes weekly to discuss developments in the organization's 56 participating states and make decisions.


However, it is the OSCE Ministerial Council that is scheduled to meet in Madrid in late November to make a decision about Kazakhstan's chairmanship bid.


Given Time To Improve Record


Last year's Ministerial Council in Brussels postponed a decision on Kazakhstan's bid in order to give Astana additional time to improve its democratic and human-rights record.


But last month's disputed parliamentary elections, which saw Kazakhstan's ruling Nur Otan party win all of the seats in the legislature, and controversial constitutional amendments adopted in May, have given additional arguments to those OSCE countries that oppose Astana's 2009 bid.


"Right now, the OSCE gives some of its members an excuse to doubt that all [participating states] enjoy equal rights, that this organization is the same for all, and that there does not exist first-class and, say, second-class countries within this organization." -- Kazakh State Secretary Kanat Saudabaev

Among them is the United States, which argues that Kazakhstan is not yet ready to chair the OSCE and needs to demonstrate that it is genuinely committed to the organization's values. Since all decisions at the OSCE are made on a consensual basis, lifting Washington's objections is of crucial importance to Kazakhstan.


Russia and other former Soviet nations, by contrast, support Kazakhstan's aspirations to chair the OSCE.


Russia's envoy to the OSCE, Aleksei Borodavkin, has said that a rejection of Astana's bid would "violate a fundamental principle of the OSCE, which says that all its participating countries have equal rights."


Echoing Borodavkin's previous statements, Saudabaev said on September 20 that the OSCE faced a unique opportunity to demonstrate that "it is indeed our common organization."


"Right now, the OSCE gives some of its members an excuse to doubt that all [participating states] enjoy equal rights, that this organization is the same for all, and that there does not exist first-class and, say, second-class countries within this organization," Saudabaev told reporters.


Positive Changes


In his address to the Permanent Council, Saudabaev talked at length about the political and economic achievements his country has made and that, in his view, all speak in favor of its chairmanship bid.


Those include changes brought to the constitution in May that curtailed the powers of the head of state to the benefit of the legislature, thus helping transform Kazakhstan into a "presidential-parliamentary republic."


Saudabaev also evoked a recent decision to reduce the length of the presidential term from seven to five years. However, he did not mention other constitutional amendments that allow Nazarbaev to seek as many mandates as he wishes.


Rejecting the conclusions of OSCE observers who noted that the August parliamentary polls did not meet international election standards on a number of important grounds, Saudabaev said the failure of opposition parties to present viable alternative political programs and field "charismatic" candidates explains their defeat and Nur Otan winning some 88 percent of the vote.


International election observers have expressed concern about the conduct of the ballot. Those concerns included a lack of transparency of the vote count in a number of polling stations, preferential treatment given to Nur Otan candidates by Kazakh authorities and state-controlled media, and the existence of a 7-percent threshold required for parties to be represented in parliament.

Kazakhstan And The OSCE



READY TO LEAD THE OSCE? Kazakhstan has been lobbying to be granted the rotating chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009. In March, current OSCE head Karel De Gucht visited the country and said Kazakhstan is better prepared to head the OSCE than any other Central Asian country. But concerns about the state of democracy, the media, and ethnic relations make Kazakhstan's bid extremely controversial....(more)


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