Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

'Kamikaze' Kazak Deputy

A Kazak deputy risks clashing with the government over his call for constitutional changes.
By Rozlana Taukina

A young deputy in Kazakstan's "puppet "assembly, the Majilis, has created a stir by demanding constitutional changes to enable deputies to exert some influence over government spending.


Isakhan Alimjanov's colleagues fear his demands will provoke swift government retribution.


"Alimjanov has unexpectedly become something of a 'Kamikaze'," said Seidakhmet Kuttykadam, the leader of the opposition Orleu movement. "He will either be removed from the ranks of deputies, having been compromised with something or other, or they'll try and shut him up by buying him off with some posting."


Alimjanov is a member of the budget and finance committee of the Majilis, and has spent the summer analysing recent budgets.


He complains of excessive interference by the state in business. And claims that protectionism and the budget deficit have led to corruption and large external debts respectively.


This he says has resulted in low rates of business activity and investment, evasion and avoidance of taxes, and loss of confidence in the government.


Alimjanov asserts that although the world prices for oil have increased dramatically, the Kazak government does not seem prepared to spend the extra revenue on the population.


Expenditure on defence and the new capital of Astana is going up, at a time when the majority of the population can hardly make ends meet.


"An analysis of the budgets shows almost nothing is left for the people," Alimjanov said. "The head of state has a lot to answer for. I promised the electorate that I would do everything necessary to enable people to know where their taxes are going and how state property is being managed."


Under the present constitution, deputies have little influence on the budget. If parliament rejects it, or expresses a lack of confidence in the government, the president can dissolve the Majilis, as he has already done twice in the past decade.


Alimjanov is calling for constitutional changes to enable deputies to have a greater say on government spending.


Alimjanov, an economist by training, used to head a successful computer firm. He stood as one of 12 candidates for his seat in the Majilis. "He is very familiar with business and understands macroeconomics. His independence allows him to stand up for his own point of view," said Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin.


Alimjanov has pitched his battle against the cost of building the new capital of Astana. Two and a half times more is budgeted for the new capital than on defence. Alimjanov believes it is wrong that a city of around 300,000 should receive 17 times more than Almaty, which has a population of around 1.2 million.


Taxpayers' money will be used to build a diplomatic town and a second international airport for one or two flights a day. Money will also be spent on finding new sources of water for Astana and for new buildings for departments and ministries.


He argues that in the past six years, the sale of state property, industry, communications, energy and oil to US interests has earned the government 2.92 billion dollars. "That means that Kazakstan has been privatised for 2.9 billion dollars," said Alimjanov. "As an analysis of the budgets of previous years shows, the people of Kazakstan are left with almost nothing."


Gaziz Aldamjarov, chairman of the opposition People's Party of Kazakstan, said the stand taken by Alimjanov could well bolster the democratic process in Kazakstan.


"It's unlikely that the other deputies will support Alimjanov, but the fact that he came forward unafraid of the fury of the head of state, and spoke of the defence of the interests of the population gives us hope that more politicians who think democratically will also come to the fore and improve the situation in the country."


Rozlana Taukina is IWPR's director in Kazakstan