Embassy of Kazakhstan

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 February 2024 

Kazakhstan Music

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[+] Overview

The Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan approved through a national referendum in August 1995 and ratified the following month replaces an earlier “soviet-style” constitution adopted in the wake of independence from the Soviet Union. The Constitution provides for a democratic, secular state and a presidential system of rule. State governance is divided among the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The President is considered the head of state. In October 1998, the Constitution was amended to provide for a seven-year presidential term. The first presidential election under the amended constitution was held in January 1999 and resulted in the election of President Nazarbayev to the first seven-year term; the second took place in December 2005 (see below). In May 2007 the Constitution was amended to re-fix two terms for any president and reduced one presidential term from seven to five years, increase the powers of Parliament so that the executive branch is more accountable to it. This was introduced in accordance with the OSCE’s recommendations. The Constitutional reforms also established proportional representation to elect members of the Majilis (Lower House) and a party-based parliamentary system.

Parliament is a bicameral legislative body that consists of the Senate (the Upper House) and the Majilis (the Lower House). Since 2007 Constitutional reforms the number of MP’s has been increased:

  • from 39 to 47 members in Senate. The President appoints 15 of them from the choice of prominent public figures, academics, intellectuals etc.
  • from 77 to 107 members in Majilis (main legislative body). 98 of the Majilis deputies are elected in a nationwide constituency on the basis of proportional party lists. Nine of the Majilis deputies are selected by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan (an umbrella grouping of more than 100 ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan).

Parliament elections:

  • December 1999 – first ever alternative parliamentary elections carried out on party basis with 8-9 candidates per seat and 9 parties taking part in elections, observed by OSCE.
  • September 2004 – new parliamentary elections, the clear sign that Kazakhstan is continuing on the path to democratic reform; millions of people - fifty six per cent of those eligible to vote - took part in multi-party elections to the Majilis (lower parliamentary house) which were held under the new, more advanced Election Law adopted in April, 2004.
  • Senate - last held in December 2005, next to be held in 2011.
  • Mazhilis - last held on August 18, 2007, next to be held in 2012. August 18, 2007 election results: Mazhilis - percent of vote by party - Nur-Otan 88.1%, NSDP 4.6%, Ak Zhol 3.3%, Auyl 1.6%, Communist People's Party 1.3%, Patriots Party 0.8% Ruhaniyat – 0.4%; seats by party - Nur-Otan 98%. Note - parties must achieve a threshold of 7% of the electorate to qualify for seats in the Mazhilis.

Presidential elections:

  • January 1999 – first ever alternative presidential elections with four alternative candidates for the Presidency, observed by OSCE.
  • December 2005 – new presidential elections with 5 alternative candidates, 2 being major opposition leaders. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been re-elected for a new seven-year term in office after he contested with 4 other candidates and won the majority of the votes with about 80% electorate turn-out.

The Constitutional Council is charged with the responsibility of deciding when to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, and examining legislation for compliance with the Constitution.  

State-of-the-Nation Addresses. Comprehensive democratization programme was formulated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in his message to the Parliament in the fall of 1998 and is being gradually and persistently implemented.

On 1 March 2006 the President reinforced these objectives in his State-of-the-Nation Address calling for bold economic moves to bring the country into the group of 50 most competitive nations in the world and for enhanced political reform under the aegis of the newly established State Democracy Commission comprising representatives from all segments of Kazakhstan’s society.

On 28 February 2007 President Nursultan Nazarbayev delivered his annual State-of-the-Nation address, New Kazakhstan in a New World, outlining the strategy for Kazakhstan’s development over the next decade. The most important messages of the address were:

Ensuring a major breakthrough in the quality of life of the people of Kazakhstan;

Raising the quality of education and healthcare to world-class standards;

Speeding up and diversifying economic development;

Joining the World Trade Organization (WTO);

Implementing concrete measures to further democratize society so as to strengthen the role of both Parliament and local representative assemblies. Reforms required amending the country’s Constitution (see below)

On February 6, 2008 President Nursultan Nazarbayev delivered his annual State-of-the-Nation Address announcing a number of important initiatives. The focal points of his speech were economic development, further political modernization and democracy, social security and strengthening of Kazakhstan’s international alliances.

To support Kazakhstan’s new and important role as the chairman of Europe’s largest security organization, President Nazarbayev initiated in the State-of-the-Nation Address a new program, “Road to Europe”, which will facilitate “promoting economic cooperation, attracting new technologies and management expertise and also assist in improving our legislation and setting up the agenda for our chairmanship in the OSCE” (see below).

Civil society: there are about 5000 NGO's in Kazakhstan operating in such areas as politics and civic development, business, environment, education, health care, gender policy etc.

Above 80% of mass media in Kazakhstan are private with more than 1700 independent newspapers and more than 100 independent TV, Radio and electronic media.

Representatives of about 46 religious confessions organized in about 3000 religious organizations enjoy religious freedom in Kazakhstan with Sunni Islam and Christian Orthodox being predominant in figures.

People of more than 120 ethnic groups live in peace and harmony in Kazakhstan with Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Germans, Uzbeks, Uighurs and Koreans being predominant in figures.

Further democratization is being encouraged in Kazakhstan: the new independent institution of Ombudsman on human rights set up in 2002 is further enhanced; State Commission on Democracy set up in 2006 provided a forum for dialogue on further democratisation (comprised authorities, MPs, leaders of all political parties, representatives of NGOs and media).

It has concluded its work in early 2007 and produced a series of major recommendations in such key areas as enhancing the role of the Parliament, political parties, civil society, local governance, media in the country. The recommendations call on a better use of the potential of the existing Constitution but do not rule out further amending and perfecting the Constitution to reflect the political growth of the country. An Ad Hoc Working Group of highly respected independent experts has been set up to produce recommendations on amending the Constitution. It is however widely believed among Kazakhstan’s political circles that the Presidential form of democracy suits the country best, particularly as it continues to go through a challenging transition process.

There are 10 political parties in Kazakhstan as compared to 13 in 2006. Four parties representing supporters of the current Government merged by the end of 2006, and as a result “Nur-Otan” - a new pro-presidential pro-reform party able to effectively represent interests of its numerous supporters - emerged on the political stage of Kazakhstan. Also in 2006 a leftist Nationwide Social Democratic Party was registered joining the ranks of several other opposition parties. The beginning of 2007 has seen a robust process of mergers and consolidation of political parties, including opposition ones, particularly, in the run-up to 18 August, 2007 parliamentary elections.

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[+] Political Reform

Amendments to the Plan on the implementation of Kazakhstan’s Civil Society Development Concept for 2006–2011 are being drafted. International practice, in particular, the Netherland’s experience of cooperation between NGOs and government agencies (social order mechanism) are taken into account;

By the end of October 2008 Government is to finalize the reviewed plan on the Concept’s implementation. The main goal of the plan is to strengthen cooperation between NGOs and government agencies.

Judiciary reform package, providing greater transparency, public access to court hearings, further improvement of Jury trials system introduced in January, 2007. By the end of October, 2008 the reform package will be finalized and submitted to Government.

By the end of October, 2008 Amendments to the Law on Political Parties will be submitted to the Parliament to provide for further development of the party system. Among others, provision prohibiting one party Parliament is being considered.

Consideration of the Media law drafted by Kazakh NGOs together with Kazakhstan’s Congress of Journalists and the OSCE Representative for Media Freedom. The Government together with the OSCE Representative for Media Freedom is working on reducing the list of “triggers” for prosecution for libeling in the media and excluding the relevant clause from the election legislation.

Reference: according to the Agency for Informatization and Communications, in the nearest future the number of Internet users in Kazakhstan will increase from 11 to 20 per cent. In Ukraine it is about 11,9 per cent, in Russia - 18–20 per cent, in Kirgizstan 5–6 per cent, in Belorussia – 56,3 per cent (more than in France - 54,7 per cent).

Kazakhstan continues its cooperation with ODHIR/OSCE on further reform of its election legislation. A series of roundtable discussions under the title «Challenges and opportunities for Election Process Participants» is scheduled for 2008. The first discussion was held in Astana on March 28, 2008.

Results: Kazakhstan announced its plans to hold the second roundtable in June, 2008 in Astana to discuss possible incorporation of two hundred and fifty amendments to the Law on Elections proposed by the OSCE, local and international NGOs as well as to draft amendments to the Law in July, 2008, submit the draft for the Government’s consideration in September, 2008 and then submit it to the Majilis in December, 2008. Inter alia, Kazakhstan plans to fix in the Law strict personal responsibility of relevant officials for inaccuracy in the electoral lists.

Kazakhstan’s Government is looking for the best forms of interaction with opposition. In November 2007 the Public Chamber, advisory and consultative body was established in Majilis (Lower Chamber of Parliament) to provide for dialogue among all political forces in Kazakhstan. Its primary goal is to review and debate draft laws, work out relevant recommendations and proposals. The PC consists of 30 members: recognized public figures, lawyers, NGO and media representatives, prominent opposition leaders, businessmen, scientists;

The Coalition of non-governmental organizations was established in November, 2007 in Kazakhstan to increase transparency and public control over MPs. Its members are Kazakhstan’s International Bureau for Human Rights, press freedom foundation “Adil Soz”, the International Helsinki Federation on Human Rights, Almaty Helsinki Committee, public foundation “Charter for Human Rights”, opposition representatives Mr. Zhovtis and Ms. Turmagambetova;

The “Road to Europe” program, announced in the President’s 2008 “State-of-the-Nation” address, is a clear evidence of the country’s   democratic priorities and commitment to further political modernization. The aim is to accelerate the transition of our country to Western democratic standards and values; to develop continued cooperation with the European partners, including, cooperation on improvement of Kazakhstan’s electoral, party and mass media legislation in accordance with OSCE guidelines. Cooperation with EU countries on Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship agenda will be a special focus of the program. The draft Presidential decree on implementation of the “Road to Europe” program will be prepared by July 2008;

Kazakhstan has signed and ratified 35 major documents in the field of human rights – International treaties on Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural rights, Conventions of International Labor Organization. Ratification of optional protocol to the International treaty on Civil and Political rights as well as Optional Protocol to Convention Against Torture is expected this year. Kazakhstan fully supports efforts of office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights;

Majilis has passed the UN Convention against Corruption on March19, 2008.

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[+] Interreligioius and Interethnic Consent