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Pressure for democracy gains ground

Businessmen are joining Kazakhstan's democracy movement as independent economic activity hits a ceiling.


Smoke signals of political trouble for Kazakhstan's nascent democracy rose over the offices of daily newspaper Respublika this May after unknown assailants tossed Molotov cocktails through its windows.

No-one was caught but few doubt what was behind the act of vandalism: Respublika is one of Kazakhstan's more liberal papers and had been outspoken in its criticism of the president and the corruption rife in the country.

Kazakhstan is booming for the first time in its decade-long history but the young republic's economic success is stoking a fire under businessmen and politicians for political change.

"The presidential clan's grip on the country has grown to the point where there is no independent economic activity and big business was starting to bang its head against the ceiling," says Martha Olcott, a senior analyst at the Carnegie Endowment and author of Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise.

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