Kazakhstan’s Jews, democratization and US foreign policy

Via the J-Post:

US Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), paid an official visit to Kazakhstan last week at the invitation of Euro-Asian Jewish Congress President Alexander Mashkevich. […]

As local Jewish media reports, Berkley was “impressed by the integration of the Jewish community on all the levels of social and political life” in Kazakhstan. “I am confident that tolerance towards other nations is a basis for successful development of every country”, she said. As local analysts wrote, “the status of the Jewish communities in the post-Soviet states often corresponds with the level of democratic development. Flourishing and highly involved communities are a good sign of democratization processes and openness. Kazakhstan’s Jewry constitutes an accurate example of such a concept, as its leaders support and promote the country’s rapprochement with the West and with the United States in particular”.

While I am certainly prepared to believe that the status of a country’s’ Jewish community is a reasonably good proxy for various civic freedoms, the idea that there is a “democratization process” in Kazakhstan is laughable. Freedom House, for example, gives Kazakhstan a score of 5 on civil liberties and 6 on political rights, where 7 denotes the lowest levels of freedom possible. Freedom House further notes:

it has been plagued by a rise in authoritarianism and overwhelming levels of corruption within the ruling regime. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been in office since 1989 and president since 1991, and he has allowed his family and close associates to take control of vital economic resources and political positions. President Nazarbayev was reelected first in 1999 in elections widely seen as marred, and in December 2005, he was granted an extended 7-year term in office through elections criticized as not meeting international standards. The executive branch controls both the parliament and the judicial system. Recently, the regime increased harassment of NGOs and independent media.

One should never conflate “integration of the Jewish community on all the levels of social and political life”–nor especially “rapprochement with the West and with the United States in particular” –with a “democratization process.”

Update

Surprise, surprise, the ruling party won the legislative elections of 18 August. In fact, it won all 99 seats.

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