Books on Kazakstan
Update No: 324 - (19/12/07)
The benign dictatorship?
Kazakstan, Central Asia's top oil producer, offers Europe a new source of oil
and gas as it seeks to diversify its energy supplies away from Russia. This is
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ruled with an iron fist since 1989. He
tightened his grip on power this year by seizing the right to remain in office
for life and holding a snap parliamentary election which handed his political
party all the seats. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
criticised that election as flawed.
In the summer Nazarbayev's Nur-Otan party won all seats in the new parliament,
prompting opposition parties to cry foul play. Nazarbayev called the election
two years ahead of schedule in order to amend the constitution, expand
parliament and remove limits on presidential terms in office.
Kazakstan to chair OSCE in 2010
The international community takes a more relaxed view than the opposition.
Kazakstan has been rewarded with an accolade of rare distinction, the presidency
of the OSCE in 2010.
Kazakstan's election for the OSCE 2010 presidency on November 30 “is an
important milestone in the history of our country,” said the Prime Minister of
the republic of Kazakstan, Karim Massimov, on the government's session in Astana
on December 3.
"It is the important milestone in the history of our country on the
threshold of the 16th anniversary of state independence. This once again shows
the role of Kazakstan and the president of Kazakstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to
the world community", - said the prime minister of Kazakstan, opening the
Karim Massimov congratulated the president and all Kazakstani people with the
country's election as OSCE 2010 chair country.
The opposition affronted
The Kazakh opposition accused Europe's main human rights and security watchdog
on December 4 of putting oil before democracy by choosing the Central Asian
state to hold its chairmanship in 2010.
Kazakstan has never held an election judged free and fair by the OSCE. The main
opposition party, uniting key opposition leaders, said the former Soviet
republic had no right to preside over an organisation meant to defend democratic
standards."The OSCE decision on Kazakstan's 2010 chairmanship ... is an
opportunistic, diplomatic compromise defined by energy politics and a deepening
crisis of geopolitical interests," the Nagyz Ak-Zhol party said in a
Slovak ‘connivance’ with Kazakstan
The Slovak police were under fire for detaining a Kazakh activist during a
November 21 visit to Bratislava by President Nazarbayev. Actually, the decision
to do so was certainly cleared at the highest level. Slovakia is urgently trying
to diversify its energy supplies away from Russia.
The police detained peacefully-protesting Kazahkh opposition journalist Balli
Marzec to prevent her from disturbing a welcome ceremonial, which was under way
in front of Bratislava's presidential palace.
However, the activist, who is reported to be based in Poland, registered her
protest against the authoritarian leader with city authorities. 'During my
protest ... I thanked Slovakia for being democratic. I had no idea the police
would grab me, bring me over here and beat me up,' Marzec told TA3 news channel
before midnight November 21, when the police released her after 13 hours in
The Slovak police were under fire the next day, as lawyers and media found the
move illegal and unacceptable. 'Instead of support and understanding in a
country, which calls itself democratic, she was humiliated,' the daily Plus
Jeden Den wrote.
Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak met with a Polish consul to smooth over
the scandal. 'I expressed my regret that something like that had happened,' he
told reporters after the meeting.
Tax regime tightened for oil investors
If foreigners are lenient towards Kazakstan, the reverse is not necessarily
true. It has warned of a tightening of the fiscal regime on oil investors, and
for international oil companies in effect to stop living "in ancient
times," as it prepared to tighten the fiscal regime at oilfields and
increase state ownership of its flagship Caspian Sea development.
Daulet Yergozhin, Kazakstan's deputy finance minister, said in December that
draft revisions to the tax code, to be debated in parliament early in 2008,
would increase budget revenues, be "simple to administer and collect and
very understandable for oil and mineral producers."
There are plans to introduce a new blanket tax covering all oil production to
replace existing royalties and rents charged only on oil exports. The tough tax
proposals reflect widespread frustration in Kazakstan about the advantageous
contracts secured by foreign oil companies in the 1990s, when oil prices were
low and the republic was sunk in an economic recession that followed the
collapse of the Soviet Union.
Foreign investors would be consulted about the tax amendments, Yergozhin said.
His comments came as Kazakstan appeared close to asserting greater control over
the giant Kashagan field as part of a settlement of a dispute with an oil
consortium led by ENI of Italy about surging costs and production delays at the