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Kazakhstan: Parliament Supports Extension of President’s Term of Office

(Jan. 6, 2011) On December 29, 2010, the Mazhilis (lower house of the legislature) of Kazakhstan voted to support the initiative of various public groups, which were recently registered by the Kazakhstan Central Election Commission, to conduct a national referendum on extension of the term of the incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev until December 6, 2020. Nazarbayev, who is 70 years old, has been the head of this Central Asian state since 1989. He won the last elections for President in 2005 with 91.15 % of the popular vote; the next scheduled elections were to have taken place in 2012. Kazakhstan officials supported the legislature's decision, contending that it is cheaper to conduct a referendum than full-scale presidential elections. (Referendum Is Cheaper Than Elections [in Russian], TODAY.KZ (Dec. 27, 2010),

According to Kazakhstan's Constitution, no one can be elected President for more than two consecutive terms; however, according to a constitutional amendment of 2007, this rule does not apply to Nazarbayev. On June 14, 2010, he was declared to be the national leader, or yelbasy. (Lev Makedonov, Pozhiznennyi Yelbasy [Yelbasy for Life] [in Russian], GAZETA.RU (Dec. 29, 2010),

As national leader, the first President of Kazakhstan is entitled to keep life-tenure chairmanship of the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan (an unelected advisory body, established under the Constitution, comprising representatives of all of the country's minority ethnic groups); to be a member of the highest governing bodies, such as the National Security Council and the Constitution Council; to address the legislature; and to approve all policy initiatives. He cannot be held responsible for any actions taken while in office, property that belongs to him or his family members is inviolable, and monuments to him will be erected in the capital city (Astana) and in his hometown. (Constitutional Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Amendments to Selected Constitutional Acts of Kazakhstan [in Russian], No. 289-IV (June 14, 2010), [official publication].)