Kazakhstan's much-vaunted political modernization, which President Nursultan Nazarbayev said was launched by this month’s parliamentary election, has kicked off just a week after the vote with a raid on one of the country’s most vocal opposition parties.
Early on January 23 National Security Committee (KNB) agents stormed the Almaty headquarters of the Alga! party (which was unable to stand in the January 15 election because authorities will not register it) and the home of its leader Vladimir Kozlov.
The Guljan news website quoted Kozlov’s wife, Aliya Turusbekova, suggesting the search was linked to last month’s shooting of protestors in the western oil town of Zhanaozen, which Nazarbayev has blamed on mysterious third forces.
“We’ve been banned from speaking on the telephone,” she told the website. “The only thing I can say is that a search is underway by KNB forces, and it is linked to events in Zhanaozen.” She added that the intelligence officers were confiscating computer equipment and documents.
The homes of three other people linked to the Alga! party – accountant Guljan Lepisova, head of security Askar Tokmurzin and activist Mikhail Sizov – were also reported raided, as was that of youth activist Zhanbolat Mamay.
Meanwhile, theater director Bolat Atabayev, known as a vocal critic of the Nazarbayev administration, told the Respublika newspaper that he had been summoned for interrogation by the security services and linked the summons to the Zhanaozen shootings. “They’re looking for enemies … They’re looking for guilty people. We were there [in Zhanaozen], and that is why all this is happening,” he said.
Nazarbayev described last week’s election as “an important step in the modernization of the country’s political system” – but these tactics look more like a throwback to the era of Soviet terror than a step along the path to democracy.