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Kazakhstan: Nazarbaev Warns Foreign NGOs Ahead Of Presidential Election
By Bruce Pannier
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev cautioned foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) yesterday that their activities will be closely watched. Nazarbaev is seeking re-reelection in presidential elections in December. The Kazakh president warned foreign NGOs not to interfere in the countrys politics and threatened to prosecute them if they meddled in the election campaign. But analysts say Nazarbaev is concerned about a repeat of the colored revolutions that have hit other former Soviet states.

Prague, 13 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Speaking to a gathering of civic groups in Astana yesterday, Nazarbaev devoted a good portion of speech to the work of foreign NGOs.

In particular, the Kazakh president emphasized the negative roles he said such groups played in recent changes of power in Georgia, Ukraine, and neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

Nazarbaev said that in the wake of the so-called colored revolutions in those countries, Kazakhstans parliament has sought to pass new legislation placing strict guidelines on the work of foreign NGOs. The proposed law on the activities of NGOs in Kazakhstan was overruled by the Constitutional Council last month, but Nazarbaev said members of parliament were justified in seeking to further regulate the role of NGOs.

They [parliament] have seen the dangers that arose in neighboring countries when foreign NGOs insolently pumped in money and destabilized society. The state was defenseless against this and what is happening now in these countries you all know very well, Nazarbaev said.

Nazarbaev said NGOs, particularly foreign-based, have no right to finance political parties, especially during election campaigns. He warned that authorities would be paying special attention to NGOs ahead of Decembers presidential vote. Our parliament and government will follow closely foreign and Kazakh NGOs activities to see if they observe our laws and our constitution, Nazarbaev said.

Kazakhstan is not the only country in Central Asia to try to restrict or regulate the activities of NGOs, but it is the next country in the region to hold elections.

Nazarbaev was among the leading critics of Kyrgyzstans Tulip Revolution in March and has said he believes foreign NGOs helped overthrow the government there.

Some in Kazakhstan, such as independent politician Zhaqsybay Bazylbay, see the issue of NGOs and their activities as a security matter. Bazylbay hopes to run in the upcoming elections and he sees nothing wrong with placing restrictions on NGOs in Kazakhstan. I consider the idea of stopping the flow of [international] grants [to NGOs] as a very correct move," he told RFE/RL. "Why do you think the president is not right here? If he [the president] has some good and strong points we have to name them also. I have always supported and I will support the idea of strengthening of our national security.

But not everyone sees it that way. Seydakhmet Quttyqadam, an independent political analyst in Almaty told RFE/RL that the monitoring of NGOs has less to do with security and more to do with keeping the current regime in place. Now, all those statements and ideas made by the president, all those thoughts put forward by his team, are nothing more than an attempt to save their power. They are trying to shut the mouths of the NGOs by questioning the legitimacy of their activities, Quttyqadam said.

Dos Koshim, the director of the Independent Observers Network of Kazakhstan, has supported measures to keep foreign groups from meddling in Kazakhstans internal affairs, but he did not agree that NGOs were responsible for such intrusions.

Of course, we have to prevent any interference in our internal affairs, but the stance of authorities that domestic and foreign NGOs in our country and elsewhere in the world should be put under [their] control is an inconvenient position. We monitored directly the elections in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan and I personally did not see any international NGO spending -- as they [Kazakh authorities] say -- tons of money to bring people out in the streets, Koshim said.

Meanwhile, Nazarbaev had very different words for Kazakh NGOs yesterday. Noting that the government already provides $3.4 million annually to the countrys more than 5,000 NGOs, Nazarbaev said that by 2011 that figure would be not less than $7.5 million per year.

(Merhat Sharipzhan of RFE/Rl's Kazakh Service contributed to this report).