Kazakhstan’s recently established party of power, Otan [Fatherland], held its first congress on March 1 in Almaty. Attended by nearly 400 delegates representing 35,000 registered members, the event marked Otan’s absorption of three preexisting, yet embryonic pro-government organizations: the People’s Unity Party, the Democratic Party, the Liberal Movement and the Kazakhstan-2030 Movement (the latter named after the target date of President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s blueprint for the modernization of Kazakhstan). Representatives of the state and private industrial sector, the cultural establishment and various official ethnic organizations predominated among the delegates. Nazarbaev, however, advised the participants to develop Otan “as a mass party, not a party of the elites.”
Nazarbaev’s keynote address described Otan as intending to “concentrate the country’s reformist forces within its ranks,” promote social consensus across ethnic lines and “sustain political stability under conditions of economic instability.” Anticipating that economic difficulties would persist for the next few years, the president advised the party to formulate its political message along “social-democratic” lines. Nazarbaev declined the honorary party chairmanship which the congress offered him, but accepted the number one membership card. The forum elected former Prime Minister Sergei Tereshchenko as party chairman (Habar, March 1).
Tereshchenko, who pursued a private business career after having left the government, returned to politics last November to head Nazarbaev’s reelection campaign. Upon Nazarbaev’s landslide victory in January, Tereshchenko announced that the campaign organization would be converted into a political party to be named Otan (see the Monitor, January 15). The party’s immediate goal is to prepare the parliamentary elections, which are due this coming autumn but are expected to be held somewhat earlier. The longer-term goal is to campaign for Nazarbaev’s reelection in 2006.
Immediately following Otan’s congress, the Justice Ministry granted legal registration to the opposition People’s Republican Party, the left-leaning organization headed by former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin. Last autumn Kazhegeldin was disqualified by the courts from running for president (Itar-Tass, March 3).
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