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#AungSanSuuKyi suspended from #SakharovPrize community

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Parliament’s Conference of Presidents decided today (10 September) to formally suspend Sakharov Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from the Sakharov Prize Community.

The decision by the Conference of Presidents (President and political group leaders) to exclude Aung San Suu Kyi formally from all activities of the Community of Sakharov Prize laureates is a response to her failure to act and her acceptance of the ongoing crimes against the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

The Sakharov Prize Community connects MEPs, laureates, and civil society to increase cooperation on human rights action in Brussels and internationally. It serves as a channel of communication that enables the laureates and Parliament to address jointly human rights violations and issues.

Read more on the Sakharov Prize here.

Background

In 1990, the European Parliament awarded then Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for embodying her country’s fight for democracy. A year later, she received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Aung San Suu Kyi is currently state counsellor and foreign affairs minister of Myanmar.

Economy

European Commission imposes €60.5 million fine on Teva and Cephalon

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The European Commission has fined the pharmaceutical companies Teva (€30 million) and Cephalon (€30.5 million) a total of  €60.5 million for a ‘pay for delay’ agreement it maintained for over six years. 

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “It is illegal if pharmaceutical companies agree to buy-off competition and keep cheaper medicines out of the market. Teva's and Cephalon's pay-for-delay agreement harmed patients and national health systems, depriving them of more affordable medicines.”

The European Commission accuses Cephalon of inducing Teva not to enter the market, in exchange for a package of commercial side-deals that were beneficial to Teva and some cash payments. 

Cephalon's drug for sleep disorders, modafinil, was its best-selling product under the brand name “Provigil” and for years accounted for more than 40% of Cephalon's worldwide turnover. The main patents protecting modafinil had expired in Europe by 2005.

The entry of generic drugs into a market usually brings dramatic price drops of up to 90%. When Teva entered the UK market for a short period in 2005, its price was half of Cephalon's Provigil. 

The Commission investigation found that for several years, a ‘pay-for-delay’ agreement eliminated Teva as a competitor allowing Cephalon to continue charging high prices even though its patent had expired.

Today's decision is the fourth pay-for-delay decision that the Commission has adopted. It is significant, because of the form taken by the payments. In previous cases, generic entry was delayed by means of simple cash payments. In this instance, the mechanism was much more sophisticated, relying on a mixture of cash payments and a package of seemingly standard commercial deals. This is a clear signal that the Commission will look beyond the form a payment takes.

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European dual-nationals and Iranian hostage diplomacy

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Since its inception, the Islamic Republic has treated dual-citizens and foreign nationals as bargaining chips in its negotiations with the West, imprisoning individuals on spurious charges while using their detainment as diplomatic leverage, writes United Against Nuclear Iran.

Tehran refuses to recognise dual citizenship, acknowledging instead only the Iranian identity of the individuals in question. As such, dual-citizens are regularly denied consular assistance from their alternative home nation. In reality, the Iranian regime is not blind to dual-citizenship at all. Rather, these unfortunate individuals are targeted by the regime precisely because of their dual-citizenship, which is seen as something that can be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Western countries.

The international response to Iran’s systematic use of hostage diplomacy differs from country to country, even from detainee to detainee.

However, although Iran’s detention of dual-citizens is nothing new, the conscious decision of certain European governments and institutions to look the other way is both novel and troubling.

In what follows, we take a look at how different European governments and non-state bodies have responded to the imprisonment of their fellow citizens and colleagues.

Where some countries perform well, coming to the defence of their citizens and taking proactive measures to secure their release, others are inexcusably silent on the matter. In certain cases, non-state bodies have taken far more decisive action than have the government of the same country.

Thankfully, there are some signs that European powers are belatedly running out of patience with Iran.

In September 2020, France, Germany and the UK, collectively known as the E3, summoned their respective Iranian ambassadors in a coordinated diplomatic protest against Tehran’s detention of dual nationals and its treatment of political prisoners. As the first coordinated action of European powers against Iran’s systematic abuse of dual-nationals, this was a highly promising development.

What our comparative analysis makes clear, however, is that until European states and the EU adopt a common and collective approach to dealing with Iran’s hostage diplomacy there is little hope that Tehran will alter its behaviour.

Observance of the basic norms of international diplomacy and human rights must be the precondition for European engagement with Iran, not its long term goal.

It is time for European leaders to put its values and its citizens before its blind commitment to maintaining dialogue with a morally bankrupt regime.

Belgium/Sweden

Prisoner(s): Ahmad Reza Djalali

Sentence: Death

Justification for imprisonment: Espionage on behalf of a hostile government (Israel) and ‘corruption on earth’.

Dr Ahmad Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian disaster medicine expert who taught at universities in Belgium and Sweden, was sentenced to death on charges of 'co-operation with a hostile government' following a manifestly unfair trial in October 2017. He remains in prison and faces execution.

The difference between how Belgium and Swedish academia have responded to Dr. Djalali’s plight could not be more stark.

In Belgium, every university in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders has ceased all academic cooperation with Iranian universities in order to show their support for Dr. Djalali and signal disgust at their colleague’s mistreatment. Caroline Pauwels, rector of Brussels Free University, noted that the decision to sever ties with Iranian academia had “the wholehearted support of the academic community in Belgium”.

No such moral backlash obtained in Swedish academies.

In the same month that the Flemish Council decried Dr. Djalali’s abuse, six Swedish universities (Boras, Halmstad, KTH University, Linnaeus, Lund, and Malmo) conducted a tour of Iran to discuss academic cooperation. The delegation ‘welcomed’ Iran’s proposal for a ‘Day of Iran and Sweden Science’ to take place the following year.

In December 2018, the University of Boras signed an agreement with the University of Mazandaran in northern Iran. In January 2019, the Swedish Ambassador in Tehran reportedly signed an MOU with the President of Sharif University of Technology to boost “academic and industrial co-operation” between Swedish and Iranian universities.

Sweden’s political leaders mirror the country’s universities in their apathetic response to Dr. Djalali's fate. In almost five years since his initial arrest, Sweden has failed to secure consular support for Dr Djalali. Not without cause, Dr. Djalali believes the Swedish government has abandoned him. Meanwhile, his sister claims she has been given the cold shoulder from the Foreign Ministry, an argument backed up by opposition leader Lars Adaktusson, who has claimed that Sweden is abandoning Djalali by continuing to treat the regime with kid gloves.

Meanwhile, the Belgian government actually attempted to save the life of the researcher. In January 2018, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders called for his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to repeal Dr. Djalali’s sentence.

Sweden’s quietude is all the more remarkable when one considers Dr. Djalali’s ordeal is regularly highlighted on social media by leading humanitarian organizations, including Amnesty International, the Committee for Concerned Scientists, and Scholars at Risk.

Austria

Prisoner(s): Kamran Ghaderi & Massud Mossaheb

Sentence: 10 years each

Justification for imprisonment: Espionage on behalf of a hostile government

Kamran Ghaderi, CEO of an Austria-based IT management and consulting company, was detained during a business trip to Iran in January 2016. Massud Mossaheb, an elderly Iranian-Austrian dual national who had previously established the Iranian-Austrian Friendship Society (ÖIG) in 1991, was arrested in January 2019 travelling to Iran with a delegation from MedAustron, an Austrian radiation therapy and research firm seeking to establish a center in Iran.

Austrian-Iranian citizens both, Ghaderi and Mossaheb are currently being held in Iran's notorious Evin prison, where they have undergone untold hardship and suffering since their initial arrests.

Ghaderi's physical and mental health has severely deteriorated throughout his detention. He was denied appropriate medical treatment, despite having a tumour in his leg. Ghaderi's “confession” was extracted through torture and intimidation, including being wrongfully informed that his mother and brother were also imprisoned and that his cooperation would secure their release. In the almost half decade since his arrest, the Austrian government has failed to provide Ghaderi with consular support.

Similarly, Mossaheb’s advanced age has made his time in Evin prison excruciating. He has been placed in solitary confinement for weeks at a time. The International Observatory of Human Rights, Mossaheb believes he is quite sick and badly needs medical attention. The Austrian government is in touch with Mossaheb’s family and has tried to use “silent diplomacy” to get Mossaheb released, to no avail. He has yet to be granted Austrian consular assistance. The UN has consistently called for the release of both men, citing their particular vulnerability to Covid-19, which is believed to be rife in Iran’s prison system.

Unlike the Swedish government, Austrian leaders seem to be making the right moves.

In July of 2019, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg contacted his Iranian counterpart, the supposedly moderate Mohammad Javad Zarif, seeking his help to free Mossaheb, while the same month, an Austrian foreign ministry spokesman said his government had insisted—unsuccessfully—that Tehran release Mossaheb on the bases of humanitarianism and his age. President Alexander Van der Bellen also held talks with Iran’s President Rohani over the release of both prisoners.

Despite these significant interventions, the Austrian government has been no more successful than other governments in pressuring Iran to release its citizens.

France

Country: France

Prisoner(s): Fariba Adelkhah & Roland Marchal

Sentence: 6 years

Justification for imprisonment: Espionage

Fariba Adelkhah, a French-Iranian anthropologist and academic employed by Sciences Po, was arrested on trumped-up charges of “propaganda against the system” and “colluding to commit acts against national security” in July 2019. Shortly after Adelkhah’s arrest, her colleague and partner Roland Marchal was accused of “colluding to commit acts against national security” and similarly detained.

Upon receiving news of the arrests, Sciences Po immediately implemented a series of actions in close collaboration with the Crisis and Support Centre of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE).

The prisoners’ home university worked with the French Foreign Ministry to provide legal assistance and apply political pressure. With the help of the MEAE, the university ensured that both Adelkhah and Marchal received the assistance of a highly experienced Iranian lawyer. The lawyer was approved by the Iranian judicial authorities, a move which is far from usual, ensuring that both prisoners received a defence that was both watertight and officially authorised.

Although Marchal was subsequently released, Adelkhah remains in Evin prison and has yet to be granted any French consular assistance. The numerous protests which have taken place at Science Po over Adelkhah’s continued detention attest to the ongoing interest in her case and the widespread disgust of colleagues at her treatment.

While Emmanuel Macron has called for Adelkhah’s release and has referred to her detention as “intolerable”, the French President resolutely refuses to weigh Iran’s treatment of French citizens in the same scales as that which dictates his ongoing support for the JCPOA.

According to her lawyer, Fariba was allowed on temporary release in early October due to her medical condition. She is currently in Tehran with her family and is obliged to wear an electronic bracelet.

United Kingdom

Prisoner(s): Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Sentence: 5 years (currently under house arrest)

Justification for imprisonment: "for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian regime" and for “running a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran"

Possibly Iran’s most high-profile dual national prisoner, the British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in 2016. Although given temporary furlough due to Covid-19, she remains under house arrest in her parents’ home in Tehran, where she is forced to wear an electronic tag and is subject to unscheduled visits by IRC officers.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family have campaigned tirelessly for clemency from the regime, especially as her health rapidly deteriorated under the strain of life in Evin prison.

Despite having less than a year of her sentence remaining, mounting health concerns and pressure from the UK government, the Islamic Republic continues to refuse to allow an early release for Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Indeed, just as she approaches freedom, the regime has laid a second set of charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe in September. On Monday 2 November, she was subjected to yet another dubious court appearance, which received widespread cross party criticism in the United Kingdom. Her trial has been adjourned indefinitely and her freedom remains entirely dependent on the whims of the regime.

Following this, her MP, Labour's Tulip Siddiq, has warned that “burying our heads in the sand is costing my constituent her life”.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release is allegedly dependent on a £450 million debt, dating back to the days of the Shah, for a cancelled arms deal. In the past, the UK government has refused to acknowledge this debt. In September 2020, however, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace formally stated he was actively seeking to pay the debt to Iran to help secure the release of dual-nationals, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

This is an incredible development from the UK, who not only have admitted their debt to Iran, but are willing to engage in hostage negotiations with the regime.

However, this week, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary noted no one in the House of Parliament accepted the “legitimacy of any direct link between the debt and the arbitrary detention of dual-nationals”. Furthermore, while the UK continues to examine options to resolve the arms debt, a court hearing over the alleged debt has been postponed until 2021, apparently at Iran’s request.

The UK government has in fact made a number of unusual moves in an attempt to secure Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, not always in her best interest.

In November 2017, then Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, made an ill-advised comment in the House of Commons that Nazanin was “simply teaching people journalism,” a claim manifestly denied by her employers, the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Nazanin was returned to court following Johnson's comments and the statement was cited in evidence against her.

While Johnson has apologised for his remarks, the damage is arguably done.

In a more promising development, in March 2019 former Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, took the very unusual step of granting Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection – a move that raises her case from a consular matter to the level of a dispute between the two states.

Unlike other European countries, the UK government actually understands the danger Iran poses to its dual-citizens. In May 2019 UK upgraded its travel advice to British-Iranian dual nationals, for the first time advising against all travel to Iran. The advice also urged Iranian nationals living in the UK to exercise caution if they decide to travel to Iran.

United Against Nuclear Iran is a not-for-profit, transatlantic advocacy group founded in 2008 that seeks to heighten awareness of the danger the Iranian regime poses to the world.

It is led by an Advisory Board of outstanding figures representing all sectors of the US and EU, including former Ambassador to the UN Mark D. Wallace, Middle East expert Ambassador Dennis Ross, and former Head of the UK’s MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove.

UANI works to ensure the economic and diplomatic isolation of the Iranian regime in order to compel Iran to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons programme, support for terrorism and human rights violations.

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Political scientist: COVID-19 will not become a brake for Kazakhstan election

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Kazakhstan is holding parliamentary elections on 10 January, expected to further bolster the soft democratic reform process in the Central Asian country. In a wide-ranging interview, political scientist Mukhit-Ardager Sydyknazarov explained the political landscape and the stakes ahead of the ballot, writes Georgi Gotev.

Mukhit-Ardager Sydyknazarov (pictured) is a doctor of political science, director of the Institute of Contemporary Studies, Eurasian National University. L.N. Gumilyov, Nur-Sultan.

The President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, signed a decree on holding the parliamentary elections for the Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) on 10 January. Could you describe the political context ahead of the elections? Who are the main political candidates?

At the end of May 2020, the president signed the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Amendments and Additions to the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan” and some other pieces of legislation which provided for the rights of the opposition in the Kazakh Parliament. Members of the parties representing the parliamentary opposition were given the right to speak at parliamentary hearings and at joint sessions of the Chambers. The legislation provides, which is especially important, the appointment of members of the parliamentary opposition as heads of parliamentary committees.

The initiatives on gender and youth quota, supported by the president and the Parliament, also meet the socio-political needs of the maturing Kazakhstani society.

Last October as you said the President said the decree on holding the parliamentary elections. The next 2 months pass for voters in a rather difficult political electoral campaign, plus, on the whole, because of the pandemic, the year itself is one of the most difficult in the history of Kazakhstan.

All except the ruling Nur-Otan party, according to the logic of the pre-election struggle and competition for the minds of voters, are opposition. I will answer your question about the main political contenders in (Cyrillic) alphabetical order (the interview was conducted in Russian).

Party “Adal” (“Justice”). This newly formed party is based on the rebranding of the renaming of the Birlik party. The party intends to replenish its membership base primarily by business representatives. Interestingly, the choice of the name was carried out on a scientific basis, professional opinion polls were conducted. According to the leaders of the party, the choice of the new name of the party is explained by the demand of the population for renewal and justice. At the same time, people put a lot in the word of justice: from the fight against corruption to the transparency of decision-making.

The party’s program consists of five key areas: A dignified life for all citizens; Entrepreneurship is the basis of a successful state; Agro-industrial complex development and food security; Strong regions are a strong country; A State for the people.

The program as a whole is focused on the general population, with elements such as free medical care, a twofold increase in the subsistence minimum, an increase in salaries for doctors and teachers, improvement of rural infrastructure, etc.

The party wants to reduce the burden on business and free it from administrative restrictions. Adal proposes to introduce a moratorium on tax increases until 2025, and conduct a “new wave of privatization.” The Adal party also announced the popular initiative in Kazakhstan to return to completely free medical care. This combination of liberal and socialist measures means only one thing: the Adal party intends to quickly mobilize its new electorate from a wide range of the population. However, will it be able to do this when there are only 2 months left before the elections – we will see.

Party “Ak Zhol” (“Lighted Path”). The party calls itself “the” parliamentary opposition. The party’s pre-election program was recently announced. It should be noted that its leader Azat Peruashev had earlier initiated a law on parliamentary opposition. The party’s frontmen, in addition to the chairman, are Daniya Espaeva, ex-presidential candidate of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kazybek Isa, Berik Dyusembinov.

After the President signed the laws providing for the rights of the opposition in the Kazakh Parliament, the leader of AkZhol Azat Peruashev literally said: “The main novelty of this draft law is that we are introducing the word “opposition” into the legal field. You know that we did not have this concept. We considered it correct that there should be a parliamentary opposition in the Parliament, which will express the opinion of the people and raise issues of concern to the entire population. That is, the parliamentary opposition is not just an opposition, it will have the right to express its opinion, it will also express the opinion of the people. ”

At the party congress Peruashev noted that “this state faces many challenges and problems, the solution of which is no longer possible without wide participation and control from society”. He highlighted the need for a gradual transition from a super-presidential system to a parliamentary republic and from a monopoly of power to a system of checks and balances.

The AkZhol party has defined the main threats to Kazakhstan in the following terms: bureaucracy and corruption, social injustice and the growing gap between rich and poor; monopolization of the economy and power in Kazakhstan.

Perushaev has stated that further dragging out of reform may lead to a crisis of statehood, as it happened in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, and earlier in Ukraine.

People’s Democratic Patriotic Party “Auyl”. It’s one of the youngest parties in Kazakhstan, created in 2015 through the merger of the Kazakh Social Democratic Party “Auyl” and the Party of Patriots of Kazakhstan. It has participated in parliamentary and local elections in 2016. The frontmen of “Auyl” are its chairman, Senator Ali Bektayev and his first deputy, ex-presidential candidate Toleutai Rakhimbekov. The electoral list is headed by Rakhimbekov, an active politician who is very successful in social networks. The party successfully conducted a nationwide poll with the aim of monitoring the most pressing socio-economic problems, which, logically, should form the basis of the party’s electoral program.

In particular, “Auyl” proposes to introduce “children’s capital”, which provides for the payment of a certain amount of budget funds to each minor Kazakhstani from the moment of birth. This builds on the experience of the rich Arab monarchies of the Gulf countries. “Auyl” is focused on supporting large families, which are traditional in Kazakhstan.

People’s Party of Kazakhstan (formerly the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan). On the basis of rebranding and renaming, it became a “people’s party”. The frontmen of the People’s Party are well-known and active deputies of the Mazhilis of the Parliament Aikyn Konurov, Zhambyl Akhmetbekov and Irina Smirnova. The first two also hold the positions of secretaries of the CPPK Central Committee. Zhambyl Akhmetbekov twice ran for president of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the elections of 2011 and 2019.

The People’s Party aims at “uniting the left forces of the constructive opposition”. This is reasonable, since the communist legacy is not particularly popular among the mostly young Kazakh electorate. This is why instead on nostalgia, the party banks on the values ​​of equality and brotherhood: egalitarianism, a socially oriented state.

National Social Democratic Party (NSDP). It’s the oldest political party in Kazakhstan. The faces of the party are its chairman Askhat Rakhimzhanov and his deputy, Aydar Alibayev. The party counts on a protest electorate, and there are quite a few such sentiments amid the economic recession. In fact, it has traditionally been an opposition party since its inception. The party has gone through serious perturbations during its difficult history. The two-time change of the party’s leadership in 2019, the withdrawal of a number of active members from the party were at one time newsworthy in the Kazakh media. The NSDP recently postponed its extraordinary congress to 27 November. Given the difficult situation inside and around the party, it is difficult to predict the readiness of their party lists. In the media, the NSDP has already announced its ambition to participate in the parliamentary elections and is not going to boycott them.

Before I ask you to describe the ruling party Nur-Otan, let me ask you the following: isn’t its strategy based on the assumption that after years of rising living standards since the independence from the Soviet Union, the vast majority of the electorate would prefer stability rather than experiments to the far-left or of a liberal kind? And the opposition will always remain marginal?

Let me say a few words about the Nur-Otan Party. This is the ruling party. The history of the formation and development of the Nur-Otan party is closely connected with the name of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Under his leadership, the party became the country’s leading political force. Nazarbayev is the ideological inspirer of the Nur-Otan party, he was at the origins of the birth and formation of the party.

Without any doubt, Nur-Otan has the most organized and ramified infrastructure in the country, it has various internal committees, a youth wing, its own media resources, etc.

Regarding pre-election matters, until mid-November of this year, there was a complete and unconditional dominance of the Nur-Otan party in the Kazakh media. The party, its organizers, represented by the first deputy chairman Bauyrzhan Baybek, have done a huge organizational, ideological, media and content work both in the center and, more importantly, in the regions. Particularly noticeable and unprecedented in scale and content were the party primaries of the Nur-Otan party, over 600 thousand citizens took part in them, there were 11,000 candidates, of which 5,000 passed the primaries. But it is also necessary to take into account the organizational scale, the number of members and the capabilities of the Nur-Otan party: the party has 80-90 deputies, and AkZhol has no more than 10.

The elections will be held according to party lists. Parties need to overcome the 7% threshold, and this is a high figure – the votes of hundreds of thousands of Kazakhstanis. A multi-party parliament can exist only in the form of factions of political parties demonstrating different political platforms, reaching solutions through compromises in the name of the prosperity of citizens and the state. For this – the parliamentary opposition and a corresponding law has been adopted in Kazakhstan guaranteeing their powers.

Regarding the second part of your question: no, I do not believe that in the long term, as you said, opposition forces “will always remain marginal”. There is a party struggle, there are voters, therefore, everything depends on the actvism and initiative of each party.

Recently I wrote that the elections are part of the process of “controlled democratisation”, which are underway under the new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Is this a fair assessment? 

The choice of political science terminology is a non-stop process. And it is possible that your term will catch on: life will show.

I will say that the second president of Kazakhstan set new trends in all areas. My personal opinion is that we were very lucky with the second president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: he is a politician, a diplomat with vast Kazakhstani and international management experience, an expert and insider on international political processes, who speaks several key UN languages. He has a fresh outlook on many things, while the continuity declared by President Tokayev remains: this is very important, given our neighbourhood with two major powers: Russia and China, and the growing geopolitical threats and risks, the permanent instability, which has become new normalcy in international relations.

Due to the pandemic, there probably won’t be many international observers or journalists before and during the elections. Is this a setback?

Electoral campaigns in the world, including in European countries, and also in the US, took place during the pandemic, and the events showed that Covid-19 will not become a brake on political changes, on the contrary, it became their catalyst. I think that Kazakhstan will cope with this challenge, given the high degree of organization and well-established and efficiently functioning state institutions.

Also, the pandemic and social distancing, quarantine restrictions, less social contacts of part of the population have become a part of our everyday life, so going to the vote, on the contrary, will become an event in which they want to take an active part.

Holding elections in January, when temperatures in Kazakhstan are sometimes very low, can also be a problem?

Winter electoral cycles are not so rare for our country. In Kazakhstan, winter does not freeze citizens and country political processes. On the contrary, traditionally December, January, in general winter in Kazakhstan is a season of fateful political decisions: protests of student youth in 1986, which became the first harbingers of the collapse of the USSR, took place in December, the independence of Kazakhstan was also declared in December, the actual transfer of the capital from Almaty to Akmola (later – Astana, since March 2019 – the city of Nur-Sultan) was also a harsh northern winter. So Kazakhs are no stranger to being hyperactive in winter conditions.

In my subjective opinion as a political scientist, if there is a turnout of 60-70% of voters in these elections, it will be a great achievement.

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