07ASTANA1357, KAZAKHSTAN: CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM PACKAGE APPROVED WITH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1357 2007-05-18 10:17 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO9509
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1357 1381017
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181017Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9490
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0170
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1742
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2210
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY

UNCLAS ASTANA 001357 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM PREL KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM PACKAGE APPROVED WITH 
SURPRISE ADDITION 
 
REF: ASTANA 1323 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  Parliament voted on May 18 to approve President 
Nazarbayev's package of constitutional amendments designed to 
increase the size and authority of the parliament, as well as to 
introduce other changes aimed at democratic reform.  In a surprise 
move, a small group of parliamentarians added a provision exempting 
Nazarbayev from existing term limits.  This puzzling move is likely 
to undercut the positive public impact of the reform package.  End 
summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
Last-Minute Change to Lift Nazarbayev Term Limit 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
2. (U) As expected, a joint session of parliament voted on May 18 to 
approve the package of constitutional amendments that President 
Nazarbayev presented for consideration two days earlier (reftel). 
All 39 senators and 66 of the 71 Mazhilis (lower house) members 
present voted in favor of the package, which will now go to 
Nazarbayev for signature. 
 
3. (U) In an unexpected move, an additional provision was added to 
the package late on May 17 exempting President Nazarbayev from the 
current two-term limit specified in Article 42 of the constitution. 
One parliamentarian cited the example of Franklin Delano Roosevelt 
being elected to four terms to lead the U.S. through a time of 
crisis. (Comment:  A false analogy given that FDR's experience led 
to consensus on the need for term limits and the adoption of the 
22nd Amendment in 1951. End comment.) 
 
4. (SBU) Ak Zhol Mazhilis member Alikhan Baymenov told Pol-Econ 
Chief that a small group of deputies drafted the provision and 
inserted it into the text.  He was quite surprised to learn of it 
this morning just before the second and final reading of the 
legislation.  Baymenov, who called the provision "a spoonful of tar 
in a barrel of honey" (akin to one rotten apple spoiling the whole 
bushel), was quite concerned that the move would distract attention 
from the numerous positive points in the legislation. 
 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
5. (SBU) While quick passage of the constitutional amendments was 
expected, the move to exempt Nazarbayev from existing term limits 
came as a surprise to all observers.  We may never know if 
Nazarbayev initiated the idea, or it was the work of 
parliamentarians attempting to curry favor (as they did by renaming 
the party in his honor in December).  Nazarbayev, who will be 72 by 
the time his current term expires in 2012, has publicly stated that 
this will be his last term; it is unlikely that he will seek to stay 
in office.  Even if that is his plan, there was no need to act now 
to pave the way; he will retain enormous powers under the modified 
Constitution to continue to change the system of government as he 
sees fit.  Parliament's gift to Nazarbayev will seriously undercut 
the public impact of the constitutional amendments: instead of 
headlines about "Modest Political Reform in Kazakhstan," the 
independent press here and abroad will likely lead with "President 
Nazarbayev Can Serve for Life."  Nazarbayev could still put a 
positive spin on the matter by rejecting the legislation, but that 
is unlikely. 
 
ORDWAY

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