Opposition Party Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan
The party 'Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan' (DCK) was established in late 2001. Its founders were mostly members of the political and economic elite sharing a pro-business and pro-reform attitude. Although in the early 2000s they were part of a system of government, their paths with President Nazarbayev diverged: they believed that the liberalisation of the economy should have been followed by the democratic changes. The founders of the movement included, inter alia, Deputy Finance Minister Kairat Kelimbetov, the governor of Pavlodar, Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, Deputy Prime Minister Oraz Zhandosov as well as entrepreneurs: Nurzhan Subkhanberdin (the President of Kazkommertzbank), Members of Parliament: Bulat Abilov and Tholen Tokhtassynov, and the recent Energy Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov, then the head of the Astana consortium. The establishment of a new organisation was also supported by Rakhat Aliyev, then the President's son-in-law - husband of his influential eldest daughter, Dariga.
The party has won fans among young people, and has gained some popularity in the ranks of government administration and business. It advocated, among other things, the
According to Amnesty International, Mukhtar Ablyazov is a prisoner of conscience.
introduction of elections for governors. It sharply criticised the corruption and nepotism in Nazarbayev's circles. The establishment of the party 'Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan' aroused insecurity among the President's closest associates. Nazarbayev was personally involved in the neutralisation of the new movement. On his behalf, Prime Minister Tokayev sharply criticised the founders and he demanded that members of the new party resign from their positions. Soon after that, the authorities carried out a purge of the state apparatus, from which they removed the members and supporters of the DCK. At the beginning of 2012, Ablyazov and Zhakiyanov faced court trials on fabricated criminal charges of abuse of position for private gain and were sentenced to six and seven years in prison respectively. 'Amnesty International' deemed them to be prisoners of conscience.
The authorities exerted ever more pressure on the party which had been deprived of its leaders. In particular, they disallowed registration of its regional branches. In 2003, the court ordered the dissolution of the party. In 2004-2005, activists made attempts to keep the party alive by registering the organisation under a new name, namely: the People's Party. In 2004, the party took part in the parliamentary elections along with the Communist Party, but it did not win any seats in parliament. It was eventually banned before the presidential election in 2005, but the coalition 'For Fair Kazakhstan', led by the organisation, managed to appoint a common candidate, Zharmakhan Tuyakbay. He received 6% of the vote. 'Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan' was the first political party to propose an alternative to the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. At the same time, the banning of the organisation by the authorities gave rise to political oppression in Kazkhastan which is ongoing to this day with varying intensity. Many former activists of the DCK are still active in various fields of political opposition. Some of its leaders reside abroad. These include, first of all, Ablyazov, whose family were deported from Italy to Kazakhstan in mid-2013, and Muratbek Ketebayev, who is currently applying for political asylum in Poland.
The legacy of Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan is the unregistered party ALGA!, established in 2005, whose leader, Vladimir Kozlov, having been convicted in 2012, is serving a prison sentence of 7.5 years. The split in the party DCK in 2002 resulted in the emergence of the center-right, pro-business 'Ak Zhol' political party that holds seats today in the parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan as part of the so-called 'licensed opposition', co-operating with the authorities.