Not unexpectedly, on October 20, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbaev declared his candidacy for the January 10, 1999 presidential elections. Ever since he called for early elections on October 8 (see the Monitor, October 13), Nazarbaev has been keen to seem reluctant to re-stand for president–until, however, he had determined the degree of his grass-roots support. On announcing his candidacy he stated that already a million Kazakhstani citizens had sent telegrams in his favor. Several pro-presidential parties have come out in support of his candidacy, including the People’s Unity Party, the Democratic Party, the Cooperatives’ Party and the movement of “Youth for Kazakhstan’s Future.” Nazarbaev has also hinted that his presidential campaign will differ markedly from that of 1991 or of the pre-referendum campaign of 1995. In that last campaign, he spent prior months touring the country, with his officials paying house-to-house visits. Because “people know me [now],” he stated, pre-election time and money is better spent bailing out ailing enterprises and paying pension and wage arrears.
Several alignments are emerging. One notable example is Azat Pervashev’s Citizens’ group. Still to register as a party, the group lacks its own political platform. Instead, it promotes Nazarbaev’s candidacy, domestic industry, investment and private property. Another group is made up of workers’ collectives from the Pavlodar aluminum, Aqtobe ferro-alloy and Jezkazgan copper plants–who held a joint press conference at which they also expressed their wish to form a party, hinting that their leader would be Alexander Mashkhevich, an Israeli with substantial business interests in the country (Delovaya nedelya [Almaty], October 23). Meanwhile, to boost his campaign, and possibly to offset such groups, Nazarbaev has appointed a new press secretary, Asylbek Bisenbiev, leader of Kazakhstan’s Liberal Movement formed in 1997 and familiar to the public through his frequent television appearances.–SC
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