During her visit to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice advocated democracy for the states of Central Asia. “America will encourage all of our friends in Central Asia to undertake democratic reforms," she said, "and as they do so, they will solidify a lasting partnership of principle with the United States."
After meeting with Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev, Secretary of State Rice said the United States delivers a consistent message. “We will press for free and fair elections here just as we press for free and fair elections everywhere in the world,” she said.
At the Eurasian National University in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, Ms. Rice told the students: “Our goal is not to lecture our friends on how to do things the American way. Rather, we seek to help our Central Asian partners to find the stability they seek. . . .our historical experience has taught us that stability requires legitimacy, and true legitimacy requires democracy.”
Ms. Rice cautioned that there is much work to do in building functional democracies:
“Free and fair elections do not begin on the day of election. Prior to that, there must be the ability of the opposition to organize. There must be opposition access to the press. So the voters can indeed have a free choice.”
Secretary of State Rice is realistic about current conditions. “Central Asia is a region that has not had a democratic past,” she said after meeting with Tajikistan’s president, Emomali Rakhmonov. “The important issue is to take these countries where they are and see them make progress.” She praised Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election in July for being “by all accounts, the freest and fairest that took place ever in this region.”
Secretary of State Rice said she went to Central Asia to seek better relations, and “one of the elements of a strong and deep relationship with the United States these days is moving forward with democracy.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.