07ASTANA1323, KAZAKHSTAN: PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV FAST-TRACKS CONSTITUTIONAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1323 2007-05-16 15:04 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO7389
OO RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1323/01 1361504
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 161504Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9454
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0167
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1738
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2207
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 001323 
 
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 FAST-TRACKS CONSTITUTIONAL 
 
REFORMS 
 
REF: A. Astana 515, B. Astana 1304 
 
ASTANA 00001323  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  President Nazarbayev presented a package of 
proposed constitutional amendments to a joint session of parliament 
on May 16, and instructed parliament to pass them this week.  The 
proposed constitutional amendments retain significant power in the 
presidency, but increase the size and the power of parliament in 
some spheres.  In addition, the constitutional amendments increase 
the role of maslikhats (local legislatures), eliminate the death 
penalty except in cases of terrorism and war crimes, pave the way 
for government financing of public organizations and political 
parties, and make it more difficult for parliament to amend the 
Constitution in the future.  President Nazarbayev discussed a number 
of additional reforms, including moving to a party-list proportional 
representation system for all Mazhilis districts and requiring 
court-issued warrants for arrest.  However, these reforms did not 
appear in the text distributed at the joint session of parliament, 
and will presumably be enacted as part of future legislative 
changes.  Parliament conducted the first reading of the 
constitutional amendments on May 16, and is expected to complete the 
second reading and approve the amendments on Friday, May 18.  End 
summary. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
Nazarbayev Presents Constitutional Reforms 
------------------------------------------ 
 
2. (U) On May 16, President Nazarbayev presented a package of 
proposed constitutional amendments to a joint session of parliament. 
 During his presentation, Nazarbayev traced the history of 
democratic reform in Kazakhstan, and stressed that Kazakhstan was 
now ready to enact "liberal reforms" and establish new 
counterweights in the balance of power between different branches 
and institutions. 
 
3. (U) Nazarbayev then unveiled amendments that would accomplish the 
following: 
 
-- increase the size of the Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) by 
30 members, from 77 to 107, with 98 members elected by the voters 
and nine elected by the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan, a 
presidentially appointed advisory body designed to represent all of 
the different ethnic groups in Kazakhstan. 
 
-- increase the size of the Senate by eight members, from 39 to 47, 
with all eight new members appointed directly by the president. 
(Note: The president currently has the power to appoint seven of the 
39 senators, and will now have the power to appoint 15 out of 47 
senators. End note.) 
 
-- require the president to obtain Mazhilis approval to appoint the 
prime minister. 
 
-- require the prime minister to represent the political party with 
a majority of seats in the Mazhilis, require the Cabinet to 
implement the party's program, and require the Cabinet to report to 
the parliament as well as the president. 
 
-- require the parliament to approve the national budget and any 
amendments to the national budget. 
 
-- reduce the number of Mazhilis members needed to dismiss the 
Cabinet through a no-confidence vote, from a two-thirds majority to 
a simple majority.  Under the amendments, the vote must be initiated 
by a least 1/5 of the Mazhilis. The Mazhilis would also have the 
authority to request the dismissal of individual Cabinet members by 
a simple majority vote. 
 
-- reduce the president's term in office from seven years to five 
years, after President Nazarbayev's current term expires in 2012. 
 
-- tighten the residency requirement for presidential candidates, 
requiring candidates to have lived in Kazakhstan "for the last 15 
years" as opposed to the current "for at least 15 years." 
 
-- tighten the residency requirement for parliamentary candidates, 
requiring candidates to have lived in Kazakhstan "for at least 10 
years."  Currently, Senate candidates must have lived in Kazakhstan 
for at least five years; there is no residency requirement for 
Mazhilis candidates. 
 
-- extend the term in office of Maslikhat members from four years to 
five years. (Note:  Maslikhats are locally elected legislative 
bodies at the oblast [regional] level and the local [city/county] 
level.  End note.) 
 
ASTANA 00001323  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
 
-- require Maslikhat consent for the appointment of regional and 
local akims (governors/mayors).  Currently, the president appoints 
regional akims, and regional akims appoint local akims, without 
formal consent by the respective Maslikhats. 
 
-- reduce the number of Maslikhat members needed for a no-confidence 
vote in their akim, from two-thirds to a simple majority.  (Note: A 
no-confidence vote by the Maslikhat does not result in dismissal of 
the akim; rather, it is treated as request for dismissal by the 
president in the case of regional akims, or by the regional akim in 
the case of local akims.  End note.) 
 
-- abolish t
he Judicial Qualifications College, a semi-autonomous, 
independent body that screens and then forwards judicial candidates 
to the president for his consideration, and transfer the power to 
select candidates to the Supreme Judicial Council, a body consisting 
of the chairman of the Constitutional Council, the chairman of the 
Supreme Court, the procurator general, the minister of justice, and 
miscellaneous other officials. 
 
-- abolish the death penalty for all crimes except terrorism crimes 
leading to death and grave crimes committed during wartime. 
 
-- eliminate the current restriction on merging public organizations 
with government institutions, which will allow greater government 
funding of NGOs. 
 
-- eliminate the current restriction on public financing of 
political parties. 
 
-- eliminate the constitutional provision that requires the 
president to suspend his political party activities while serving as 
president. 
 
-- allow the president to appoint the chairman and two members of 
the Central Election Commission.  Currently, all seven members are 
appointed by the Mazhilis. 
 
-- allow the full Senate and the full Mazhilis to appoint members of 
the Constitutional Council, a seven-member body which interprets the 
Constitution.  Currently, the speaker of the Senate and the speaker 
of the Mazhilis are each entitled to appoint two members of the 
Council; the proposed amendment would grant that power to the entire 
legislative body, as opposed to just the speakers.  The president 
would retain the power to appoint the chairman and two remaining 
members. 
 
-- allow the full Senate and the full Mazhilis to appoint members of 
the Budget Revision Commission, a nine-member body with authority 
over budget issues.  Currently, the speaker of the Senate and the 
speaker of the Mazhilis are each entitled to appoint three members 
of the Commission; the proposed amendment would grant that power to 
the entire legislative body, as opposed to just the speakers.  The 
president would retain the power to appoint the chairman and two 
remaining members. 
 
-- increase the number of referendum votes needed to amend the 
Constitution by referendum, from a simple majority of votes in the 
country to a majority of votes in two thirds of all oblasts and 
major cities (Almaty and Astana). (Note: The proposed amendments do 
not address the mechanism for amending the Constitution through the 
legislature.  End note.) 
 
--------------------------- 
Future Legislative Changes? 
--------------------------- 
 
3. (U) In his presentation, President Nazarbayev made a number of 
additional proposals which did not appear in the text distributed to 
audience members.  These changes do not involve amending the 
Constitution, and will presumably be enacted following the adoption 
of the new constitutional amendments.  Among other things, he 
proposed strengthening the role of political parties in the 
parliamentary election process by moving to a party-list system for 
all Mazhilis seats, and creating a mechanism to provide public 
financing for political parties.  In addition, he stated that the 
power to authorize arrests would be vested in the judiciary.  A 
summary of Nazarbayev's speech was immediately posted on the 
presidential website (www.akorda.kz) in Russian, Kazakh, and 
English. 
 
-------- 
Timeline 
-------- 
 
ASTANA 00001323  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
 
4. (SBU) President Nazarbayev asked the parliament to approve the 
constitutional amendments this week, citing the public discussion 
that had already taken place on these reforms through the 
Democratization Commission (Ref A).  The parliament conducted the 
required first reading on May 16, and is scheduled to complete the 
second reading and hold a final vote on Friday, May 18.  Although 
the president said nothing about early parliamentary elections, 
informed observers such as Alikhan Baymenov of Ak Zhol (Ref B) and 
Oraz Zhandosov of True Ak Zhol believe that this is inevitable. 
 
--------- 
Reactions 
--------- 
 
5. (SBU) Initial reactions from our contacts have been mixed.  Not 
surprisingly, opposition Social Democratic Party leader Zharmakhan 
Tuyakbay, who has chosen a path of constructive engagement with the 
Kazakhstani government, told the press that overall he was pleased 
with this "first step toward democratic reform," even though it was 
a "cautious" move and more public debate was needed.  He called for 
further reforms, including "real" authority for the Mazhilis to form 
the government and control the national budget; direct election of 
akims at all levels; and the election of judges to ensure the 
independence of the judiciary.  Oraz Zhandosov of True Ak Zhol, 
usually a vocal critic of the government, told the Ambassador that 
he viewed the majority of the proposals as beneficial.  Well-known 
human rights defenders Yevgeniy Zhovtis and Ninel Fokina both 
expressed concern to us regarding the lack of transparency and 
public debate.  Interestingly, both also viewed the move to a party 
list system as disadvantageous for opposition parties, even though 
the sole (nominal) opposition representative in parliament today - 
Baymenov - was elected from the party list. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
6. (SBU) Although detailed analysis will be necessary to judge 
whether these changes will increase the ability of Kazakhstani 
citizens to influence their government, these draft amendments 
clearly have the potential to lead to greater democratization. 
Switching to a pure proportional system to elect the Mazhilis, for 
example, is likely to significantly strengthen the development and 
role of political parties.  Increasing Parliament's authority will 
introduce greater institutional balance and oversight, even if there 
is a large pro-presidential parliamentary majority. 
 
7. (SBU) In the short run, political parties favoring President 
Nazarbayev and his policies will dominate any freely-elected 
Parliament.  Nonetheless, if there is sufficient political will at 
the top to ensure a fair electoral process, even a small increase in 
opposition representation would provide for greater public debate 
and dialogue.  In addition, we have been telling the GOK for some 
time that it needs to develop strong, democratic institutions for 
the post-Nazarbayev era.  In this context, real steps to reduce the 
formal powers of the presidency and increase the role of parliament 
would be a major step in the right direction. 
 
ORDWAY

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