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Kazakhstan: New Party Says Power Belongs To People

Washington, 28 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A member of a newly formed political party called the Republican National Party of Kazakhstan (RNPK) says real power rests with the Kazakh people and not the president.

Assylbek Kozhakhmetov made the comment Tuesday at a press conference in Washington to discuss the party's formation and attract international recognition to their political platform.

Kozhakhmetov is the rector of the Almaty School of Business and also the new secretary of the RNPK's Executive Committee for Organization. He is heading an 11-person delegation that is in Washington this week on a five-day visit sponsored by the Kazakhstan 21st Century Foundation -- a Swiss-based, non-profit, independent organization focusing on the development of democratic values and a market economy in Kazakhstan.

Kozhakhmetov said the delegation came to Washington to meet with U.S. officials and numerous non-governmental organizations in an attempt to gain international support for the party. The delegation has met with several officials at the U.S. State Department and made contacts with several congressional aides, he said. He added that the delegation has also held meetings with various non-governmental organizations, including the American Foreign Policy Council, the Carnegie Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Kozhakhmetov said the new party was formed in order to counter the dominant power held by Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"I believe that when the power of the executive, judiciary and legislative branches find themselves in the hands of just one individual, we are fully in a position to consider that a textbook definition of tyranny."

Kozhakhmetov said that his party finds it distressing that not a single branch of the Kazakh government is independent of presidential control. He particularly criticized President Nazarbayev's practice of appointing members to the national parliament. He also said corruption, cronyism, censorship and communist-style economic and political policies by the Nazarbayev administration are destroying the very fabric of Kazakhstan's society and economy, and are leading to a complete exhaustion of the nation's human and natural resources.

Kazakh officials gave no immediate response to RFE/RL's Washington correspondent seeking a reaction to the charges leveled by the delegation. Our correspondent called the Kazakh Embassy in Washington, but officials there said they had no one available for comment.

But at the press conference, Kozhakhmetov said his party, which was founded in Kazakhstan about 40 days ago, intends to aggressively promote the establishment of democratic institutions and a free market economy in Kazakhstan.

According to the text of RNPK platform, which was handed out to reporters, it is stated: "This is a party meant to encompass the whole nation, whose goal is to transform the political system through active participation in parliamentary elections and elections of all other central or local political bodies in order to ensure the basic interests of all Kazakhstan's citizens.... to improve people's lives through political and economic change."

The platform further states that the party is "ready to become a training ground for the political elite," adding: "We believe that the power should rest in the hands of the leaders of our generation. The old generation of leaders is unable to cope with the quickly changing situation. As a result, our country is losing everything it achieved during the last decades."

Kozhakhmetov told reporters that the party already has more than 4,000 members from all 14 regions of Kazakhstan and is actively recruiting more members. He said the party was founded by members of the popular movement "For a Fair and Just Election" which was created last year to promote a free and fair presidential election in Kazakhstan.

Kozhakhmetov said the RNPK has three main strategic goals:

-- Obtain registration as a political party from the Ministry of Justice.

-- Build up support for the party and increase membership across Kazakhstan.

-- Become actively involved in the two forthcoming elections -- to the national parliament and the municipal-level governments.

He said the party's biggest concern is that the Kazakh Ministry of Justice will refuse to register them as a political party.

"If we are not able to obtain registration, which is a real possibility, most likely the same things will be happening to us as what happened to those who founded 'For a Fair and Just Election.' That means we will be subject to all kinds of harassment, including arrests and administrative action."

Other members of the delegation include Rozlana Taukina, head of the Association of Independent News Media of Kazakhstan; Sergey Duvanov, journalist and publisher of the newspaper "451 Degrees Fahrenheit"; Vitaliy Vornov, lawyer and former member of Parliament and head of the Association for the Development of the Judiciary of Kazakhstan; Viktor Mikhailov, representative of the Russian ethnic community of Kazakhstan; Zhemis Turmagambetova, deputy chairman of the Human Rights Bureau of Kazakhstan; and Valerian Zemlianov, a member of the parliament of Kazakhstan.