Library of Congress – Federal Research Division
Country Profile: Kazakhstan, December 2006
were criticized by international monitors. Some leaders of two forceful opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party of Kazakhstan (RPPK, founded in 1998) and the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK, founded in 2001), have been sentenced to prison, and RPPK leader Akezhan Kazhegeldin has been in exile since 1998. The government deprived DVK of its legal status in 2005. Less threatening opposition parties such as the Ak Zhol (Bright Path) Party have been allowed legal status. In 2005 Ak Zhol split into pro-government and antigovernment parties, the latter of which was denied registration. The Coalition for a Just Kazakhstan, including most of Kazakhstan’s opposition groups, was refused registration in 2005. Nevertheless, its chairman, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, finished second to Nazarbayev with 6.6 percent of the vote in the presidential election. In February 2006, the murder of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, leader of the unregistered splinter of Ak Zhol, cast suspicion on the ruling party. As of early 2006, some 12 parties had official status, and four of them held seats in the Majlis. In mid-2006 the pro-government Asar Party joined Otan.
Mass Media: Although the constitution and the Media Law provide for freedom of speech and the press, by 2002 the government had eliminated or silenced most independent media outlets. The daily newspapers with widest circulation are the Almaty Asia Times (in English), the Almaty Herald (in English), Ekspress–K (in Russian), Kazakhstanskaya Pravda (expressing the official views of the government in Russian, circulation 55,000), Khalyk Kenesi (in Kazakh), Vecherniy Almaty (in Russian), and Yegemen Kazakhstan (expressing the official views of the government in Kazakh, circulation 62,000). The Times of Central Asia covers all of Central Asia except Tajikistan. The weekly Russian-language Karavan, owned by President Nazarbayev’s daughter, has a circulation of about 250,000. The government also controls most printing and distribution facilities, and many of the approximately 1,000 privately owned newspapers receive government subsidies.
A large percentage of broadcast media outlets were privatized in the late 1990s, but most broadcast companies are operated by pro-government owners, including Nazarbayev’s daughter and son-in-law. The main television channel, Khabar, reaches 64 million people in Central Asia and parts of China and Russia. Six other national channels are active. Public and private regional television channels and radio stations also broadcast, many of them on frequencies owned by regional governments. In 2000 Kazakhstan had about 6.3 million radios and 3.6 million television sets. The state press agency is the National Information Agency, Kazinform. Major foreign news agencies in Kazakhstan are Agence France-Presse, Anadolu Ajansı of Turkey, the U.S.-based Internews Network, the Islamic Republic News Agency, ITAR–TASS and RIA– Novosti of Russia, Reuters, and Xinhua.
Foreign Relations: In 2006 Kazakhstan continued its largely unsuccessful advocacy of stronger relations among the states of the former Soviet Union and among the five Central Asian states. Despite ongoing efforts by President Nazarbayev, neither of the two existing regional economic organizations—the Central Asian Economic Community and the Eurasian Economic Community—has increased regional cooperation. The only regional rapprochement occurred in the realm of national security, as the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) began issuing geopolitical policy statements as a bloc in 2004. Kazakhstan’s bilateral relations with Russia improved significantly in the early 2000s, and the government declared 2004 the “Year of Russia.” Bilateral programs