Kazakhstan: Europe's Democracy Watchdog?

Kazakhstan: Europe's Democracy Watchdog?

In a landmark for Central Asia, Kazakhstan this year has taken over the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) -- a key intergovernmental organization that monitors everything from security cooperation to political and human rights in 56 member states across Europe. It is the first former Soviet state, the first Muslim country, and the first country east of Austria to assume the chairmanship. But Kazakhstan is hardly a paragon of European democracy. Its authoritarian government, headed by longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev, doesn't allow political parties to compete freely, is routinely accused of violating human rights, and is officially classified as "Not Free" by the U.S. NGO Freedom House. So how, ask critics, can Kazakhstan possibly be charged with upholding democratic standards in other countries?

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