Central Asia news

Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice, the leading party of the opposition, is officially registered

07.05.2004 00:00 msk

Gennadi Sysoev

Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice officially announced its registration, yesterday. The decision of the authorities of Kazakhstan to legalize the party aspiring for the role of opposition leader is truly sensational. It means that President Nursultan Nazarbayev who found himself under pressure from the West is making a step in the direction of democratization.

"Official registration is our victory," said Asylbek Kozhakhmetov, Chairman of the Political Council of the party. "The regime could not much longer ignore the party with almost 100,000 activists and still growing..."

People's Party Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice was transformed from a namesake movement over two months ago. It immediately proclaimed the intention to become the foremost oppositionist force in the country, consolidate protest electorate, and challenge (for the first time in the history of Kazakhstan) the bloc of pro-presidential parties in the parliamentary election slated for this autumn. "We are confident of our triumph in the election," Kozhakhmetov told this correspondent. Leader of the party is Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, ex-governor of Pavlodar locked up in November 2001 as soon as he became one of the founders of Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice (the movement). That is why the widespread opinion in Kazakhstan was that the regime would do everything to prevent registration of the new party. Its predecessor the movement was denied official registration on more than 20 occasions. When the party submitted its documents and applied for registration on April 20, everybody thought that another denial was all it could expect. Sources in the upper echelons of the party said that strange telephone calls began barely an hour later with the demands to withdraw the documents. The party was prepared for it - all documents had passed independent expertise and the Justice Ministry could find no faults with them

Registration of Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice is more than a serious concession on the part of the authorities. It amounts to a confession on the part of the regime that its policy of putting political opponents under pressure made serious problems for the authorities. Nazarbayev went for it finding himself under pressure from the West which demanded real progress in the matter of democratization from the Kazakh leader.

Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice becomes a mass (it boasts membership of over 90,000 activists which is a lot for Kazakhstan) and legal political party. Zhakiyanov is formally a major politician now (in fact, he became one long ago). Protests and demands of his release from jail in Kazakhstan and abroad will become even more pressing now. This is a chance for the authorities of Kazakhstan to show that they mean business and truly want democratization.

According to what information this newspaper has compiled, Trip to Galymzhan will become the party's first mass action following registration. Several thousands members of the party will travel to the settlement of Kushmurun (Kustanai region) on May 8, their leader's birthday, and march eight kilometers to the prison where Zhakiyanov is serving his sentence.

PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN LEGALIZED OPPOSITION

Gennadi Sysoev

Kommersant, May 7, 2004, p. 11

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru