Tuesday, during a hearing of the Helsinki Commission — an independent U.S. agency charged with promoting security and economic cooperation with eastern Europe and central Asia — that featured Kazakh foreign minister Kanat Saudabayev, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) showed contempt for human rights by telling Saudabayev that Kazakhstan’s nature as a virtual dictatorship doesn’t concern him because “Washington, D.C. is exactly the same” because it is controlled by Democrats:
ISSA: I want to share with you something here today. Washington, D.C., is exactly the same. This is a one-party town, even though there are people who are not Democrats. And this town has decided to have representation, at least one member of the council, who is chosen simply to represent minorities.
Of course, Democratic-controlled Washington, D.C., is not the same as Kazahkstan. The central Asian country is classified by the CIA as an “authoritarian” state with “little power outside the executive branch.” While Saudabayev “is in Washington speaking about Kazahkstan’s committment to democratic norms” as part of his country’s bid to lead the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the independent press in his country continues to face “harassment … and physical assault,” and Freedom House ranks it as one of the least free countries in the world, tied with Saudi Arabia.
The United States, meanwhile, is ranked by human rights and democracy promotion groups as one of the freest countries in the world. And unlike Kazahkstan’s government, Democrats were democratically elected to power in both 2006 and 2008. While Issa may be upset that voters rejected his political party at the polls, it is an insult both to people who voted those Democrats into power and to Kazakh human rights activists fighting for a more democratic Kazakhstan to compare the Democratic Congress to the current Kazakh regime. (HT: Harper’s)
EurasiaNet chides Issa for using “the occasion for partisan political purposes, attempting to equate the political situation in Kazakhstan with that of the United States.” DCist has a different take, writing that Issa’s comments were pointing to “the District’s system of government as a model for what emerging democracies can do to ensure that minority political parties are represented.”