Furthermore, Nazarbaev’s statements should be seen in the context of a tightening grip on the media and as a POSSIBLE reaction to opposition. As recently as September 26, the premises of the independent Russian-language “21-iy vek”–a newspaper frequently critical of the government–were destroyed by two bombs. Nazarbaev is probably also reacting to former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who is viewed by some as a possible challenger to the president in the 2000 elections. Although Kazhegeldin has not formally declared his candidacy, he has been strongly critical of what he sees as Nazarbaev’s authoritarian system, and has offered recommendations of sweeping electoral and constitutional reforms in his recent book. One of Kazhegeldin’s aides, Mikhail Vasilichenko, claimed last week to have been arrested by police, who, he reported, confiscated texts of proposed constitutional amendments in his possession (see the Monitor, September 22). In August, Kazhegeldin’s press secretary, Amirjan Qosanov, was allegedly badly beaten.
On September 29 Kazhegeldin also decided to step down as chairman of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs–partly to allow him to “enter political life.” That day, and one day prior to the annual address, the president invited Kazhegeldin to a private audience with him in Astana.–SC
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