Kazakhstan adopts special law on minorities

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Naubet Bisenov

2008-10-17

ASTANA, Oct. 14— On Oct. 9, the Kazakh parliament adopted a law granting special status to an umbrella grouping of the country’s minority leaders in a bid to incorporate the formerly unofficial body into the government system.

The law defines the group’s status and activities. In 1992, President Nursultan Nazarbayev initiated an assembly to unite leaders of 120 ethnic groups in Kazakhstan and has chaired it since then.

The law will provide the organisation a role in implementing government policy on ethnic minorities with the aim of ensuring interethnic accord and political stability in Kazakhstan.

Last year’s constitutional amendments enabling the minority assembly to elect nine representatives to parliament drew criticism from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) because they breach the OSCE Copenhagen Document requiring that at least one chamber of a member state’s parliament be composed entirely of persons who win seats in popular elections.

Despite increased government attention to minority issues and attempts to pursue a cohesive policy on minorities, Kazakhstan has been unable to prevent interethnic clashes. Kazakhs clashed with Uighurs in 2006 and Chechens in 2007 outside Almaty. While officials claim that those conflicts had no ethnic component, many observers in Kazakhstan disagree.

Kazkh MP Kamal Burkhanov recently said there should be no euphoria over Kazakhstan’s achievements in the sphere of interethnic relations, noting that there are problems remaining that must be addressed before the government can claim success in resolving them.

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