Sun, Aug 06, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Kazakhstan gets German backing for head of OSCE

AFP , ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN

Germany is actively pushing for Kazakhstan to take over chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009, despite the country's poor democratic credentials, a letter obtained by reporters on Friday revealed.

"Kazakhstan has made impressive progress since its independence," Germany said in a letter to its European partners.

"With its bid for the chairmanship in 2009 ... Kazakhstan underlines its commitment to the OSCE and the implementation of its standards and principles," the letter continued.

The decision on who takes over chairmanship of the security and rights watchdog body in 2009 must be made by the 56 member states by the end of the year.

Germany argued that the central Asian nation had a multi-party parliamentary system which allowed for an opposition.

But the OSCE, which stretches across Europe, Central Asia and North America, has never ruled a Kazak election as free and fair and it criticized the 2004 legislative elections in which the opposition won only one seat.

The organization also said the country's presidential election in December last year, in which President Nursultan Nazarbayev extended his 16-year rule with a crushing victory, failed to meet international standards.

Germany admitted that there were problems with the vote but was quick to point out positive aspects.

"The presidential election did not fulfill all international standards although candidate registration was mostly inclusive and gave voters a choice."

Germany made no reference in its missive to the murder of key Kazakh opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly in February nor the suspicious death in November last year of another key opposition figure Zamanbek Nurkadilov.

All of Kazakhstan's television stations and most of its newspapers and magazines are controlled by pro-Nazarbayev figures, notably his daughter. On the rare occasions that the opposition is mentioned in the press, it comes in for criticism.

Germany warned that rejecting the Kazak candidacy would have a negative impact and could alienate Almaty.

"Kazakhstan and its neighbors may shift their focus to forms of cooperation which would tend to exclude Europe and its transatlantic partners."

According to a western diplomat in Kazakhstan, several European countries back Germany's stance, believing that a Kazak chairman could ease tensions between the OSCE and former Soviet republics.

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