In the wake of the January 10 presidential election, international pressure brought about some changes in Kazakhstan's electoral laws and procedures. On April 6, 1999, President Nazarbaev signed into law amendments to the administrative code and to the Law on Elections, which addressed some of the criticism received during the presidential campaign, but left intact major obstacles to free participation in political life. He abolished article 188-2 of the administrative code, which had outlawed participation in an unregistered public association, but retained the provision of the Law on Elections disqualifying candidates with forty misdemeanor offenses. The Law on Elections amendments add ten seats to the lower house of parliament, and introduce the principle of electing members to those seats from party lists. Other changes reduce the registration fees required of parliamentary candidates, and make them refundable if candidates poll at least 7 percent of the vote.169 Problems with the Law on Elections remain: the upper house, or Senate, seats are not filled through direct popular election, but are nominated and elected by members of provincial maslikhats; candidates for Senate seats, of which there are two for each province, must be supported by 10 percent of the electors from that province.170
Despite these changes, conditions for parliamentary elections in October 1999 have been affected by the same legal and political conditions that marred elections for president.171 Both freedom of expression and the freedom to take part in political life continue to face serious government-imposed obstacles.
Though a long-awaited new law on the mass media came into force on July 23, government authorities have continued their campaign against the independent media primarily through intimidation and crippling libel suits.172 On July 20, officers of the KNB invited the editor of the independent newspaper XXI Vek, Bigeldi Gabdullin, to "discuss" materials he planned to print in late July. The officers advised Gabdullin not to run the materials in question, testimony by opposition politicians and activists before the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus, warning him that they had compromising materials against him. They showed Gabdullin a videotape of himself as he received funds from a man he recognized as one of the paper's investors. The following day, the state-owned television station KTK showed the tape on its evening news broadcast, showing only the hands of the man who gave Gabdullin the funds; the text of the report implied that Gabdullin had taken money from foreign security services.173
The electronic media have not escaped manipulation. The Supreme Court continues to delay hearings on the suits brought against the Ministry of Communications by the Association of Independent Electronic Mass Media (ANESMICA). In late July, the head of that association, together with another journalist and activist associated with the opposition, purchased a controlling interest in an operating radio station, Radio Rik, allowing them to assume management of the station. Their new programs were broadcast for just two days-the last two days of July-before being shut down on August 1; authorities cited "technical repairs to the transmitter" as the official reason the station was switched off.174
The municipal court in Aktiubinsk halted for two months the publication of the weekly independent newspaper Diapazon [The Gamut] on May 28, 1999. Published since 1996, Diapazon stood accused of "igniting national enmity." The paper's editors have asserted that the court refused to consider their substantive challenges to the finding of a court-appointed commission, whose "expert opinion" is the basis for the charge. Its publication halted for two months, the paper faces several libel suits-one of which, brought by a local official, seeks damages of one million tenge. The higher court has refused the paper's request to review the municipal court decision.175
A court in Almaty suspended publication of the independent newspaper Nachnem s Ponedel'nika and froze its bank accounts on June 24. The popular weekly, in publication since 1993, had published articles in previous weeks about ties between government and criminal structures. The paper faces a libel suit brought by the head of the Almaty subway construction agency, which sought 50 million tenge (approximately U.S. $308,000) in damages. Reacting to a public and international outcry, the Minister of Information and Public Accord called the ruling "a misunderstanding." Three days later the court reversed itself, allowing the paper to resume publication until a final ruling on the libel suit. Finally, early in September the paper was effectively closed by the Almaty municipal court's finding that it was guilty of libel for its criticism of the municipal and Supreme Courts. Reportedly, the court awarded five million tenge in damages, or approximately US $37,600; according to the paper's editors, a total of eleven suits have been brought against the paper.176
Obstruction of freedom of association likewise has hardly lagged. Authorities continued to delay registration of the political parties that had tried to organize during the presidential election campaign, seriously impeding their ability to participate in the October parliamentary race. After Akezhan Kazhegeldin was barred from the presidential election, he directed his energies towards forming a political organization (the Republican People's Party) that could take part in the parliamentary elections. On December 17, 1998, the Republican People's Party held its founding congress in Almaty; police surrounded the building where it was held and filmed the participants.177 One of the party's advisors was threatened with legal actions for "attempting to block police access."178 Although the party's organizers submitted a completed application for registration to the Ministry of Justice in Astana on January 19, the fifteen-day period withinwhich the ministry must rule on applications passed without any reply being issued. Legal advisor Vitalii Voronov was informed orally that the head of the agency responsible for registration had issued an order suspending the time limit, in order to audit the membership lists submitted by the party.179 On February 18, Voronov learned that the agency could find no grounds to challenge the legitimacy of the lists, but would raise several objections to the charter. Finally, after the charter was amended, the Ministry of Justice's agency for the registration of real estate and juridical persons issued the party its registration certificate. While local departments of justice in the Kyzyl-Orda, Karaganda, and Eastern Kazakhstan provinces and the city of Astana blocked registration, the Republican Peoples' Party announced on July 16 that after stalling on the part of provincial authorities, it had obtained its registration in the necessary nine provinces and would submit its slate to the CEC, barely meeting the deadline to do so.180 On September 9, the CEC finally approved the party slate of five candidates, which did not include the party chairman, Kazhegeldin.181
Former deputy minister of information and journalist Seydakhmet Kuttykadam began to form his Orleu (Progress) party in December of 1998. After submitting an application for registration in January, Kuttykadam received the party's registration certificate for its Almaty branch only in March. However, in order to take part in elections for the ten parliamentary seats to be chosen from party lists, parties are required to be registered in nine of Kazakhstan's fifteen provinces. Orleu has not been able to register in enough provincial branches to advance a party slate.182 Aside from state efforts to thwart opposition parties, authorities also used coercion to build up pro-presidential groups. According to Pokoleniie, some of its members have been coerced by local government authorities into joining the pro-Nazarbaev political party, Otan (Fatherland). Other information received by Human Rights Watch indicates that administrative personnel in government offices have been signed up as party members without their consent.183
As with opposition parties, individuals associated with the opposition who might potentially stand for election to parliament continue to be convicted of administrative offenses or charged with criminal acts, and thus disqualified as candidates. Several prominent figures associated with the Republican Peoples' Party have been fined for misdemeanors, offenses which they deny, since the party began its registration process.184 Former prime minister Kazhegeldin, who at one time headed the list of candidates the party planned to submit, faces charges of tax evasion purportedly initiated in October 1998, and charges of "abuse of office" (article 307(1) of the Kazakhstan criminal code) brought against him on June 16, 1999.185 The CEC finally rejected Kazhegeldin's candidacy on September 9; however, official harrassment continued. On September 10, Russian authorities, in response to an extradition request from Kazakhstan, detained Kazhegeldin at a Moscow airport, and held him for more than three days before finallyrefusing Kazakhstan's request. Several days later, Kazakhstan's General Procurator Iurii Khitrin announced that he was withdrawing the order for Kazhegeldin's arrest.186
On July 28, Seydakhmet Kuttykadam, leader of Orleu, announced that the government had opened an investigation against him for allegedly impugning the honor and dignity of the president. The charge is based on a speech Kuttykadam made before a rally in February 1999, in which he recommended that the president resign.187 Kuttykadam was nonetheless able to register as a candidate in a single-mandate district in Almaty in August.188 The CEC initially disqualified Vladimir Chernyshev, chairman of the Kostanai branch of the Communist Party and an outspoken member of Kazakhstan's first parliament disbanded in 1993, from running for a seat in October. They based this decision on Chernyshev's November administrative sentence for participating in an unsanctioned public demonstration. According to unofficial sources, the Supreme Court upheld Chernyshev's appeal and allowed him to register as a candidate soon before the September 9 deadline.189 Madel Ismailov, leader of the Worker's Opposition who hoped to run for parliament on the Republican People's Party slate, was not so fortunate. The CEC announced on September 7 that it would not accept his candidacy. Ismailov was released from prison, where he served a one-year sentence for offending the honor and dignity of President Nazarbaev, on February 24.190
In April and May, authorities repeatedly denied Irina Savostina, leader of the influential political movement Pokoleniie, an exit visa, before finally granting her permission to travel on an official U.S.-government exchange trip. In late June Savostina received an administrative "warning" for her participation in an unsanctioned demonstration from an Almaty court. She had gathered with other pensioners in Almaty on April 30 to protest non-payment of pensions. On May 20, Savostina was served with a court summons on charges of organizing an illegal demonstration, which she denied. The prosecutor based his charge that she had organized and addressed the rally on evidence from two students at Kazakhstan's national university, whose written testimony, according to Savostina, had been coerced.191169 While the April 6 amendments reduced registration fees for parliamentary candidates from one hundred to fifty times the minimum monthly wage, changes introduced on June 28 lowered them further to twenty-five times the minimum monthly wage. Constitutional Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Revisions and Amendments to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Having the Force of Law on Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana, April 6, 1999 and June 28, 1999. 170 Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 1995, article 50(2). Elections for the new maslikhat deputies are to be held on the same day as the lower house elections, October 10, meaning that the new Senate will be chosen by electors at the very end of their terms. 171 On July 7, 1999, President Nazarbaev issued a decree setting dates for the next parliamentary elections: the upper house vote will be held on September 17, and the lower house will be elected on October 10. Press release, Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, July 12, 1999. 172 The new law does not include the provision featured in the draft, allowing for the procuracy to close down any media outlet, which garnered much criticism. However, the procuracy retains this power as provided for by the Law on National Security. Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the Mass Media, Kazakhstanskaia pravda, August 6, 1999. Even the speaker of the currently sitting parliament criticized the new law as "undemocratic." RFE/RL Newsline, August 13, 1999. 173 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Bigeldi Gabdullin, August 1, 1999. 174 Bulletin of the Independent News Agency Politon, August 7, 1999. Sergei Duvanov, who assumed management of Rik together with Mrs. Taukina of ANESMICA, writes that unbeknownst to them, Rik had actually lost its broadcasting frequency to the Dala Broadcasting Company in one of the closed auctions of 1997, but that Dala allegedly concluded an agreement with the station to allow them to continue using the frequency. When the management of Rik was transferred, however, Dala rescinded this agreement. 175 Bulletin of the Independent News Agency Politon, June 7, 1999; decision of the Aktiubinsk Municipal Court in case no. 2-2827, May 28, 1999. Sergei Uspenskii, "Zapret na dva mesiatsa: v Aktiubinske priostanovlen vypusk gazety `Diapazon,'" Nezavisimaia gazeta, June 9, 1999, p. 5. 176 RFE/RL Newsline, June 25 and June 30, 1999; Glasnost' Defense Foundation press release, June 27, 1999; Khabar TV, Almaty, June 29, 1999 as reported by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, July 1, 1999. On July 28, the paper printed testimony given by Irina Savostina, leader of Pokoleniie, before the United States Congressional Human Rights Caucus. On the final verdict against the paper: e-mail correspondence from Rozlana Taukina, September 16, 1999; "Direktor gazety Ramazan Esergepov, gl. redaktor Valeria Marchenko: `V sviazi s sudebnym bespredelom my vyrazhaem nedoverie vsei sisteme vlasti.'" Nachnem s ponedelnika, September 15, 1999. 177 RFE/RL Newsline, December 17, 1998. 178 RFE/RL Newsline, December 28, 1998. 179 Electronic communication from Republican Peoples Party of Kazakhstan, April, 1998. 180 Human Rights Watch interview with Gaziz Aldamzharov, executive chairman, Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, Washington D.C. , July 16, 1999. 181 Kazakhstanskaia pravda, September 11, 1999. 182 Panorama (Almaty), March 26, 1999. 183 Human Rights Watch interview with Irina Savostina, New York, June 11, 1999; e-mail correspondence, July 4, 1999. The chairman of Otan, former prime minister Sergei Tereshchenko, managed President Nazarbaev's re-election campaign, and formed the party on the basis of the campaign organization. The party was registered within days of its application to the Ministry of Justice. Tereshchenko has stated that "the Otan party will support no other candidate but Nazarbaev"; Nazarbaev has accepted the post of honorary party chairman. Moscow Interfax in English, January 13, 1999. 184 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergei Duvanov, journalist and commentator, Washington D.C., January 27, 1999. 185 Kazhegeldin's attorneys contest the claim that tax evasion charges were formally initiated at that time, since he was not notified of them at that time, nor were they cited by officials who disqualified him from running for president. His attorneys also note that he was served with an order to appear before the court on the abuse of office charge the same day that parliament decriminalized participation in an unregistered social organization (the charged which served as the basis for his disqualification). Legal memorandum, Yablonski, Both and Edelman, June 23, 1999. 186 Human Rights Watch press release, September 11, 1999; RFE/RL Newsline, September 15, 1999. Reportedly, police arrested several Republican Peoples' Party activists who demonstrated in front of the Russian embassy in Almaty on September 14. At least six were found guilty of administrative offenses and fined. Ibid. On the day after the arrest warrant for Kazhegeldin was withdrawn, Kazakh papers printed a statement by Kazakstan's National Security Committee accusing Kazhegeldin of involvement in the sale of MiG fighter aircraft to North Korea. The sale, which became known in July, has created tension between Kazakhstan and the United States, Japan, and South Korea. RFE/RL Newsline, September 16, 1999. 187 RFE/RL Newsline, July 29, 1999. 188 Khabar TV, Almaty, August 24, 1999, as reported by BBC Worldwide Monotoring, August 24, 1999. On August 20, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported that key members of Kuttykadam's party were being persecuted, and gave the example of two prominent members who were fired from their jobs. As reported by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, August 22, 1999. 189 Written statement of Vladimir Chernyshev, September 1, 1999; e-mail communication, September 10, 1999. A court in Kostanai also reportedly found Chernyshev guilty of "hooliganism" (an administrative offense) in April for laying flowers before a monument to Lenin. 190 E-mail communication from the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, September 7, 1999; Amnesty International, Concerns in Europe: January to June, 1999. 191 Human Rights Watch interview with Irina Savostina, New York, June 11, 1999; Sluzhan Ismailova, "Odin neobkhodim kak neizbezhnost', a drugoi, kak neobkhodimost'," 451 po Farengeitu, July, 1999; Elena Brusilovskaia, "V Amerike ee nagradili, a v Kazakhstane posadili na skam'iu podsudimykh," Argumenty i fakty Kazakhstan, July, 1999.