The Specter of a "Colored Revolution"
Kazakhstan's scheduled December 4, 2005 presidential election brings two major questions into focus for this Central Asian state. First, given the political upheavals at similar junctures in three other post-Soviet countries since 2003, will Kazakhstan avoid a so-called "colored revolution?" And second, can Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev succeed over the long-term in combining regime stability with gradual top-down reform and modernization; or will his model of evolutionary change be either abruptly halted from below, or stagnate and even rot from the top?
The Kazakhstan government is particularly concerned about the answer to the first question, which has also generated a great deal of speculation within the country among opposition parties and key opposition leaders, who have formed a unified coalition movement ("For a Just Kazakhstan") to contest the presidential election. The opposition coalition held its founding meeting on March 20, 2005 in Almaty against the backdrop of the upheavals in Kyrgyzstan, in a move that was clearly inspired by the general perceived contours of the "colored revolutions." At the meeting, opposition speakers made frequent and explicit reference to the earlier events in Georgia and Ukraine, and to the drama that was then unfolding across the border in Kyrgyzstan. Representatives of the youth group, Pora, that played a key organizational role in the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, and opposition activists from Kyrgyzstan were also present in the audience. The opposition clearly hoped to use the momentum of events elsewhere to rally the population around its presidential candidate and oust President Nazarbayev.