07ASTANA1304, KAZAKHSTAN: PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV TO ANNOUNCE CONSTITUTIONAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1304 2007-05-15 11:05 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO5571
OO RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1304/01 1351105
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 151105Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9448
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0165
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1736
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2205
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001304 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM PREL KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV TO ANNOUNCE CONSTITUTIONAL 
REFORMS 
 
REF: A. Astana 515, B. USOSCE 195 
 
ASTANA 00001304  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  President Nazarbayev will present a package of 
proposed constitutional amendments to a joint session of parliament 
on May 16.  The draft amendments would transfer certain presidential 
powers to the parliament, change the method of electing the 
parliament, change the role of parties in the legislative process 
and formation of the Government, increase the role of local 
self-government, and better guarantee respect for human rights.  The 
specifics of how each of these changes will be carried out are not 
yet known, however, as the working group which developed most of 
them worked in relative secrecy and the draft has not yet been 
distributed.  The parliamentary approval process could move quite 
quickly, with one Mazhilis member predicting a final vote as early 
as Friday.  End summary. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
Nazarbayev to Present Legislation May 16 
---------------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) On May 14, President Nazarbayev announced that he would 
present a package of proposed constitutional amendments to a joint 
session of parliament on May 16. Speaking during the final meeting 
of the working group that has been drafting political reform 
legislation (Ref A), Nazarbayev said that "most of the suggestions 
offered by [the working group members] have been taken into 
account."  He said that the draft legislation will cover five areas 
where "we have tried to make serious changes": 
 
-- Redistribution of presidential authorities to the Parliament, and 
the method of electing Parliament; 
 
-- the role of political parties; 
 
-- increasing the role of local self-government; 
 
-- further development of the law enforcement system; and 
 
-- the development of guarantees of human rights and freedoms. 
 
------------------------------ 
Rogov Details Proposed Changes 
------------------------------ 
 
3. (U) Working group chairman Igor Rogov, chairman of the 
Constitutional Council, provided additional details during the 
meeting.  According to Rogov, the authority of parliament "will be 
broadened to such a degree that we can speak of a shift from the 
presidential form of government to a presidential-parliamentary 
system."  He also said that the role of political factions in the 
legislative process and the formation of the Government will be 
broadened, and that the number of seats in both the Mazhilis and 
Senate will be increased.  Rogov said that President Nazarbayev will 
announce the numbers when he presents the legislation. 
 
4. (U) Rogov added that the legislation contains provisions that 
will increase the role of public associations, impact individual 
rights and freedoms, and simplify the way courts are formed in order 
to guarantee the independence of the judicial system.  He explained 
that changes to the law enforcement system will involve regulations 
of the activities of the procuracy and investigative bodies. 
"Overall," Rogov concluded, "the amendments will allow us to 
democratize our state and society to a higher degree, and to ensure 
more reliable protection of constitutional rights and freedoms of 
the person and citizen." 
 
5. (SBU) Almost nothing is known of the substance of the 
legislation.  As reported in Ref B, Rogov's working group operated 
in a very closed manner with no outside input. 
 
-------- 
Timeline 
-------- 
 
6. (U) During the working group meeting, it was not made clear 
whether the May 16 joint session of parliament will vote on the 
draft legislation, or merely begin the process of reviewing it. 
Article 53 of the Kazakhstani Constitution specifies that the 
president must propose constitutional amendments to a joint session 
of parliament.  According to parliamentary regulations, passage of 
such legislation requires the support of a simple majority from both 
chambers on the first reading, and a three-fourths vote in favor on 
the second/final reading. 
 
7. (SBU) Past practice shows that President Nazarbayev often favors 
 
ASTANA 00001304  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
quick votes on major initiatives such as this.  After sequestering a 
group of legal experts in a mountain resort to draft a new 
constitution in 1995, Nazarbayev  submitted it to a referendum after 
only a month of public discussion.  Likewise, the Extremism Law and 
National Security Amendments were each passed in one day in 2005. 
Ak Zhol parliamentarian Alikhan Baymenov predicted to Pol-Econ Chief 
on May 15 that the parliament could get through both readings as 
early as Friday, May 18.  (Note:  Only a simple majority is needed 
to end debate and move to a vote.) 
 
8. (U) The presidential website (www.akorda.kz) immediately
 posted 
the text of President Nazarbayev and Rogov's statements in Russian, 
Kazakh, and English, as a first step in what will presumably be an 
effort to publicize the reform effort widely. 
 
---------------- 
Initial Reaction 
---------------- 
 
9. (SBU) There has been little public reaction so far, in part due 
to lack of concrete information regarding the changes.  Baymenov 
confirmed that the text of the proposed changes had not yet been 
distributed to members of parliament as of 18:00 May 15.  (Note: 
Interfax reported that President Nazarbayev met with Nur Otan 
members in a closed session late on May 15 to acquaint them with the 
draft.  He reportedly told his fellow party members that 80% of the 
changes were based on Democratization Commission recommendations, 
and 20% were steps that went further.  End note.) 
 
10. (SBU) Baymenov, who participated actively in the Democratization 
Commission, predicted that the amendments would make all seats in 
the Mazhilis elected by party list.  Logically, he said, the change 
would result in early elections this summer or fall; a wider range 
of parties might be elected.  He thought that the additional seats 
in both chambers would be appointed by the president from the 
Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan.  The big question for him is 
whether the provisions regarding local self-government will 
recognize akims (local executive leaders) and maslikhats (local 
legislative bodies) as organs of local self-government rather than 
of the central government, thereby correcting a contradiction in the 
present Constitution. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Comment: Devil is in the Details 
-------------------------------- 
 
11.  (SBU) While it appears at first glance that these are serious 
and positive steps toward democratization, the impact of President 
Nazarbayev's proposed reforms will depend on the exact nature of the 
changes, which will only be known after President Nazarbayev 
addresses the joint session of parliament on Wednesday.  The 
Ambassador has been invited and will attend. 
 
ORDWAY

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