Nazarbayev cites constitution to validate presidency-for-life

The reply of Kazakhstan’s president to a question from a French journalist regarding whether he would like to retain power for life left observers and experts puzzled.

Madi Asanov

2009-10-10

KAZAKHSTAN — On Oct. 6, the reply of Kazakhstan’s president to a question from a French journalist regarding whether he would like to retain power for life left observers and experts unsure about how to interpret his response. The issue arose on Sept. 10 when a history professor from Aktobe publicly called on him to remain in office indefinitely.

According to the Kazakh constitution, the nation’s first president, Nazarbayev, can be re-elected for an unlimited number of successive terms of office. Many politicians have proposed an amendment to the constitution to eliminate the formality of holding presidential elections should Nazarbayev express his intent to remain in office as long as he is alive.

The Kazakh constitution originally stated that “a single person cannot be elected as President of the Republic on more than two consecutive occasions.” An amendment to the constitution in June 2007 modified this provision adding that “this restriction does not apply to the first president of the Republic of Kazakhstan.” The amendment also reduced the president’s term of office from seven to five years at Nazarbayev’s suggestion.

In responding to the French journalist, he added that the government is listening and taking note of all criticisms and doubts regarding presidential elections, but asserted that Kazakhstan and its young democracy are moving forward along a path of their own. “Our goals are to maintain and strengthen our independence, boost the economy and gradually catch up with the civilised world, adopting all democratic values and freedoms that exist in the Western world,” Nazarbayev added.

Some analysts and media believe that with this reply Nazarbayev terminated speculation regarding his serving as president for life with his clear endorsement of the status quo, namely adherence to the constitiution as written with its provision on presidential elections. Others, to the contrary, assert that since he did not specifically reject the idea of an amendment waiving elections, that at minimum he does not oppose it, providing pundits with a subject over which they can continue to ruminate.

[KazTAG.kz, ZonaKZ.net, Ak-Orda.kz, Azattyq.org, DN.kz, ConstCouncil.kz, InterFax.kz]

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