Hi All.  Like Una, I haven’t had the chance to blog very much lately.  A big part is not just the ridiculous amounts of terrible and depressing news in the world, but also because I just came back from Kazakhstan, 10 time zones away from the U.S. East Coast.
I know what you’re thinking: “Kazakhstan?  Isn’t that where Borat is from?”  Sandwiched between Russia and China, it’s also the world’s ninth largest country in the world, equipped with oil, gas, minerals, riches, and a whole ton of potential.  It’s also home to almost two hundred different ethnicities.  Economically, it’s sparse population is enjoying a burgeoning economy, higher living standards, and has stability.

I was there as an election observer for the recent Parliamentary Elections with the OSCE, one of the chief international organizations mandated to assess whether elections in 56 countries of North America, Europe and Eurasia were considered “fair and free.”
If you haven’t had the chance to read the news, the elections were marred with voting irregularities throughout the country.   Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country’s current and first president, and his Nur-Otan Party won 88% of the vote.  All opposition parties were held under the 7% threshold.  As such, the President’s party acquired 100% of the parliamentary seats.  Have you ever heard of a democracy that has a parliament with only one party?  Check out what the OSCE’s Office of Democracy Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said about the elections.

So here we are.  No opposition in parliament.  So while the country does have so much going on for it economically and in terms of development, legitimate fairness and process is just not there yet.  And while it is true that the President does enjoy true support (every person I discussed politics with in my observation area in Karabalyk, without any fear, supported the President), what would happen when he can no longer serve?

No one doubts Kazakhstan’s potential, but can the country move past its democratic perils as well to reach it?  What can the international community do?

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