Husband for Monarchy, Wife for Parliamentary Democracy?
While most political observers in Kazakhstan remain skeptical of the latest incarnation of a “commission” for democratization, people are watching this commission a little closer than its predecessors. There is a sense that this commission will lead to real changes in governance, whether those changes are in the service of democratization or not. Dariga Nazarbayeva has been the most vocal of the members on the commission, and she has recently called for the development of a system of governance based on a parliamentary majority established through party list elections. Dariga’s proposal is especially interesting given the recent odd suggestion of her husband, Rakhat Aliyev, that Kazakhstan would be best served by a monarchy. One would be more skeptical of Dariga’s proposal for parliamentary democracy if not for the recent unification of Asar and Otan into one mega-party that would be expected to dominate any multi-party system. Furthermore, at least one reliable source in Kyrgyzstan had told me several months ago that certain figures in Kazakhstan’s elite have been hoping that Kyrgyzstan would initiate a parliamentary system so that the Kazakhs could “watch whether it works.” In another statement last week, Dariga had said that constitutional changes, which would obviously be needed in order to create a parliamentary system, could not be implemented in Kazakhstan until 2008. Thus, it won’t happen this year, but it is not inconceivable that by 2008 Kazakhstan could be establishing a parliamentary form of government. A parliamentary system based on party-list elections, however, does not in itself establish democracy. Party-list elections can be as easily manipulated as any other elections, and party-list systems can also be prone to corruption. Nonetheless, Dariga’s proposal also includes suggestions for increased press freedoms, a more active civil society, and a legal environment conducive to political party development. Is this merely another effort by Dariga to dig herself out of the political hole she had created for herself last year, or is this a proposal that has the approval of her father? Or, to be more cynical, is this merely a last ditch effort to convince the OSCE that Kazakhstan is deserving of that organization’s chairmanship?