Kazakhstan: Presidential election farce

Opposition activist Esenbeck Ukteshbayev jailed – Call for protest pickets on 28 March

Kazakhstan’s well known opposition activist, Esen Ukteshbayev, is still in jail. He is due to be released on the evening of 30th March. Even in breach of this regime’s own laws, the KNB (country’s political police) are preventing him from having visitors or even food packages from relatives. This breach of his rights, following the court case in which he was denied legal representation or the right to appeal, is clearly on the instructions of the ruling political elite. They are determined that this leader of the trade union and social movement should have no opportunity to continue campaigning for a boycott in the election.

Activists throughout the country have been trying to organize pickets in protest at his arrest. Applications have been lodged to organize pickets on the 28th March so far in Karaganda, Almaty, Shymkent, Kostanai, Koksheyai and Ust Kamenogorsk. The organisers are demanding:

  • The immediate release of Esenbek Ukteshbayev;
  • Freedom for trade union activities;
  • An end to pressure on trade union and social activists in the cities of Mangistauska, Aktyubinsk and Karaganda;
  • Support for the just demands of the workers of “KazMunaiGaz, Aktobemunaigaz and other organisations in the gas sector demanding fair wages and and end to job cuts and attacks on their rights;
  • For the immediate reinstatement of the sacked trade unionists Karlybaya Tolibaeva, Kosain Kulmuratova and Serik Bitikbaev;
  • The nationalization of companies controlled by foreign capital, in particular “Aktobemunaigaz”, “Arcelor Mittal Timirtau” and “KaMunaigaz”
  • The nationalization of the strategic production and natural resources, agricultural land and the banks and building sector to allow the country to get out of crisis.

However, the authorities in Almaty have already rejected permission for the picket, claiming that on that date and time an event organized by the youth wing of Nazarbayev’s party is planned!

The socialist “Kazakhstan 2012” has placed itself clearly at the centre of the campaign to boycott the Presidential election due in early April and the election is quickly turning into a farce. Only a handful of candidates have been registered and none from an opposition party. Apart from Nazarbayev himself the only other Party nominated candidate is from the “Communist peoples’ party” – a pro-Nazarbayev split from the CP, which complains it has no money for campaigning.

Obviously, the boycott campaign is having some effect as even the Central Electoral Commission is getting rattled. Following a wave of protests in a number of cities organized by the different opposition parties, the President of the Electoral Commission appeared on TV appealing to voters not to listen to the boycott call, which he called a provocation. He warns that there is no longer a minimum turn-out for the election to be declared valid. But clearly the less people who vote, the more Nazarbayev’s authority will be undermined.

Now that spring is arriving, the number of workers’ struggles is also picking up. Rather than stepping back following the sacking of their leaders, oil workers in Western Kazakhstan have stepped up their campaign for decent wages and justice. Hardly a day goes by when some group or another is not protesting. Kazakhstan 2012 is clearly in a good position to help coordinate and lead these struggles.

Therefore the CWI is calling for pickets to be organized outside the Kazakhstan Embassies wherever possible on the 28th March (or other suitable date) to demand:

  • The immediate release of Esenbek Ukteshbayev;
  • An end to the harassment of trade union activists;
  • The nationalization of the strategic production and natural resources, agricultural land and the bank and building sector;
  • Boycott the one-man, Nazarbayev election
  • For genuine and free elections in 2012, with a socialist candidate
  • For a genuine democratic constituent assembly – For a majority government of the working class and rural poor
  • For a democratic, socialist Kazakhstan