Nazarbayev: Kazakhstan's Glass of Democracy "Half or Three-Quarters Full"
Following last year’s crackdown on Kazakhstan’s media and opposition, many have wondered what political course President Nursultan Nazarbayev is steering.Today, Nazarbayev delivered his response: Kazakhstan is firmly set on becoming a Western-style democracy, he said – but it will take time.“We believe that the democracy and freedom that exist in the West, as in Finland, are for us the final goal, and not the start of the path,” he told visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, in remarks quoted by Tengri News. “We are going along that path.” Kazakhstan may have occasionally stumbled along the way, but Nazarbayev believes the glass of democracy is at least half full. “To put it vividly in the words of a philosopher, our glass is half or three-quarters full, and we have to fill it up,” he said.Nazarbayev was speaking the day after a motion was made in the European Parliament urging members to vote for a new resolution expressing concern about Kazakhstan’s human rights situation. The draft resolution specifically points to court rulings last year banning the Alga! party and independent media outlets, alleging that such a move "violates the principles of freedom of expression and assembly and raises great concerns with regard to subsequent repression of media and opposition.” The draft also “reiterates its concern over the detentions of opposition leaders, journalists and lawyers on the basis of trials which fall short of international standards” and “calls on Kazakhstan to create a climate where opposition activists, journalists and lawyers can freely exercise their activities.”Alga! party leader Vladimir Kozlov was jailed for seven years amid international opprobrium last year on charges of orchestrating fatal violence in the town of Zhanaozen in 2011 and seeking the overthrow of the state.Critics believe Kozlov, his party and independent media outlets were scapegoated over the violence, a charge the government denies even while acknowledging some responsibility for mishandling the situation in Zhanaozen.The Nazarbayev administration insists it is committed to upholding democracy and human rights. Yet long before the post-Zhanaozen crackdown, detractors noted democratic shortcomings, pointing out that Kazakhstan has never held an election judged free and fair by credible international observers (Nazarbayev last won re-election in 2011 with 95.5 percent of the vote) and that its parliament contains no genuine opposition parties. The European Parliament has already adopted one resolution this year outlining concerns about Kazakhstan’s record on human rights and political freedoms.