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Library of Congress – Federal Research Division

Country Profile: Kazakhstan, December 2006

referenda have made key changes such as the abolition of the two-term limit for that office. Officially, the prime minister, one deputy, and the 17 ministers that compose the government implement policy; the president determines policy. Nazarbayev has dissolved several governments in instances when a prime minister threatened his position as sole policy maker. Between 1992 and 2004, four prime ministers were dismissed or forced to resign. Only the president can introduce constitutional amendments. He or she has the power to appoint and dismiss the government, dissolve parliament, call for referenda, and appoint administrative heads of regions. Major foreign investment and foreign policy issues are handled by the president’s office. The president appoints the members of the Committee for National Security, which plays a major role in law enforcement through its responsibilities for national security, intelligence, and counterintelligence. Nazarbayev, an indecisive administrator whose regime has been plagued by corruption, has survived by balancing competing factions. His daughter and son-in-law have assumed influential positions in politics and the media, fueling controversy about a potential dynastic succession. In a case labeled “Kazakhgate,” Nazarbayev has survived longstanding accusations of taking bribes from a U.S. oil executive. Nazarbayev was reelected in December 2005 by an overwhelming majority.

Legislative Branch: In the post-Soviet era, Kazakhstan has had four parliamentary structures. Since 1998 the bicameral parliament has consisted of the 39-seat Senate and the 77-seat Majlis. The president appoints seven senators; every three years, half of the remaining 32 senators are elected by the governing councils of their respective provinces. Senators serve six-year terms; two are elected from each of 14 provinces and the cities of Almaty and Astana. Majlis members serve five-year terms. Ten Majlis members are elected from the winning party’s lists, and the remainder are elected from single-seat districts. Legislation normally is introduced and pushed through parliament by the president or government members, although members of parliament also have the right to introduce legislation. The legislature has no power to appropriate state funds or to lower taxes without approval from the executive branch. The Majlis can dismiss the president by a three-quarters vote only in case of treason or gross incompetence. In the 1999 Majlis elections, only four of 67 successful candidates represented opposition parties. In the 2004 Majlis elections, Otan (Fatherland), the presidential party, once again won a decisive majority of seats. Otan also held a majority in the Senate before and after the indirect elections of 2005. In 2006 two women had seats in the Senate, and eight women had seats in the Majlis.

Judicial Branch: The highest court in Kazakhstan is the 44-member Supreme Court, whose members are nominated by the president and approved by the Senate. The Supreme Court is the appeals court for decisions taken at lower (district and province) court levels. Although nominally Supreme Court judges are appointed for life, in fact they retire at the mandatory federal retirement age of 65. Under the 1995 constitution, the Constitutional Court that had been established in 1991 was replaced by the Constitutional Council. The council rules on all constitutional matters, but its decisions are subject to a presidential right of veto. The council is composed of seven members: three appointed by the president and four appointed by the legislature. Citizens have no right of appeal on council decisions.

Administrative Divisions: In 1997 an administrative reform reduced the number of Kazakhstan’s provinces from 19 to 14. The cities of Almaty, Astana, and Baykonur have the


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