Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Beckett’

President Nazarbayev Goes to Vote

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 26th April, 2015

imageThis morning I joined journalists and TV crews from around the world at Astana’s People’s Palace (a name so redolent of the former Soviet Union!) to watch voting in today’s presidential elections, for which voters of all ages were indeed streaming into the polls. In keeping with the holiday mood in Kazakhstan’s capital loud dance music was being played through loudspeakers outside and there was a large cut-out of the kind one used to see at British seaside resorts, with a hole for people to put their head through for photos. There was a brand new red carpet running up the steps from the square, along which people were proudly marching — many hand-in-hand with their small children — though I imagine it was mainly there for President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He was due to come to cast his vote at 10am, but was fashionably late, being greeted with polite applause by the small queue of other voters that had built up. The voting process is identical to what happens in the UK, with officials checking off voters’ names from the electoral register before the voters go into a curtained booth to complete their ballot, which they then fold to put in a large ballot box (transparent Perspex here, unlike the black metal ones in Britain).

imageThe President turns 75 this year, but looks quite fit and not all that different from when I met him in London when he came to open independent Kazakhstan’s first embassy to the Court of St James’s, when Margaret Beckett was Labour Foreign Secretary. Mr Nazabayev has been Kazakhstan’s leader since independence and was Secretary General of the republic’s Communist Party for a short while in the Soviet twilight. He has his own party these days and one of the two candidates authorised to run against him is standing for the Communists. In stark contrast to Britain’s current general election, where no-one has a firm idea of the government that will emerge after 7 May, the result in Kazakhstan’s presidential poll is a foregone conclusion. Mr Nazarbayev usually gets over 90% of the vote and it would be astonishing if he didn’t this time as well.

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John Sharkey and Yes2AV at the LibDems English Council

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 27th November, 2010

The Campaign Director of the Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign, John Sharkey — who was recently announced as one of the Liberal Democrats’ new working peers — was a guest speaker today at the meeting in London of the LibDems English Council, the body which looks at English party matters and brings together elected representatives from all the English regions. London is unique as a region in that we do not have any planned elections next year, so the May referendum on switching Britain’s electoral system from First Past the Post to the Alternative Vote will be the main focus of campaigning activity in the capital (while keeping the 2012 GLA/London Mayoral elections in mind). As John Sharkey pointed out, London will be a crucial battleground, not just because there are over five million voters in the capital, but also because of media interest and the fact that there is a substantial body of progressive Labour opinion in London as well as Liberal Democrats. That means that there is much room for cooperation between the LibDems (overwhelmingly in favour of electoral reform) and many reasonable Labour supporters (plus the Greens, of course, and even UKIP; coalitions can sometimes entail strange bedfellows). Yesterday, a lineup of No2AV Labour figures was produced, notably Margaret Beckett, David Blunkett, John Precott and John Reid — a herd of political dynosaurs, basically. Of course, there will be some pro-Reform Tories who need to be brought on board, as well as people who have no firm political alleigance but who believe that Britain’s rotten political system requires a big shake-up. The national Fairer Votes campaign will be organising hustings (many in churches) at which the arguments can be thrashed out. And while it is important that the Yes campaign is not seen to be merely ‘Liberal Democrats and Friends’, the LibDems must be very active in it, locally and regionally, not just in London but nationwide.

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