Politics of Kazakhstan

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The politics of Kazakhstan takes place in the framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President of Kazakhstan is head of state and nominates the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament.

Executive branch

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Nursultan Nazarbayev Nur Otan 16 December 1991
Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev Nur Otan 8 September 2016

The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The prime minister and first deputy prime minister are appointed by the president. Council of Ministers is also appointed by the president. President Nazarbayev expanded his presidential powers by decree: only he can initiate constitutional amendments, appoint and dismiss the government, dissolve Parliament, call referendums at his discretion, and appoint administrative heads of regions and cities.

The president is the head of state. He also is the commander in chief of the armed forces and may veto legislation that has been passed by the Parliament. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in office since Kazakhstan became independent, won a new 7-year term in the 1999 election that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said fell short of international standards. A major political opponent, former prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, was prohibited from running against the president because he had attended an unauthorized meeting of "the movement for free elections". On top of this the election was unconstitutionally called two years ahead of schedule. Free access to the media is also denied to opposing opinions. In 2002 a law set very stringent requirements for the maintenance of legal status of a political party, which lowered the number of legal parties from 19 in 2002 to 8 in 2003. The prime minister, who serves at the pleasure of the president, chairs the Cabinet of Ministers and serves as Kazakhstan's head of government. There are three deputy prime ministers and 16 ministers in the Cabinet. Bakhytzhan Sagintayev became the Prime Minister in September 2016.

Legislative branch

The legislature, known as the Parliament (Parliament), has two chambers. The Lower House Assembly (Mazhilis) has 107 seats, elected for a four-year term, 98 seats are from party lists, 9 - from Assembly of People. All MPs are elected for 5 years.[1] The Upper House Senate has 47 members, 40 of whom are elected for six-year terms in double-seat constituencies by the local assemblies, half renewed every two years, and 7 presidential appointees. In addition, ex-presidents are ex officio senators for life. Majilis deputies and the government both have the right of legislative initiative, though most legislation considered by the Parliament is proposed by the government. Several deputies are elected from the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan.

Judicial branch

There are 44 judges on the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan. There are seven members of the Constitutional Council. Out of the 7 members, 3 are appointed by the president.

There are local and oblast (regional) level courts, and a national-level Supreme Court. Local level courts serve as courts of first instance for less serious crimes such as theft and vandalism. Oblast level courts hear more serious criminal cases and also hear cases in rural areas where no local courts have been established. A judgment by a local court may be appealed to the oblast level. The Supreme Court hears appeals from the oblast courts.

The constitution establishes a seven-member Constitutional Council to determine the constitutionality of laws adopted by the legislature. It also rules on challenges to elections and referendums and interprets the constitution. The president appoints three of its members, including the chair.

Under constitutional amendments of 1998, the president appoints a chairperson of a Supreme Judicial Council, which nominates judges for the Supreme Court. The Council consists of the chairperson of the Constitutional Council, the chairperson of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General, the Minister of Justice, senators, judges, and other persons appointed by the president. The president recommends and the Senate (upper legislative chamber) approves these nominees for the Supreme Court. Oblast judges (nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council) are appointed by the president. Lower level judges are appointed by the president from a list presented by the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry receives the list from a Qualification Collegiums of Justice, composed of deputies from the Majlis (lower legislative chamber), judges, prosecutors, and others appointed by the president. Under legislation approved in 1996, judges serve for life. [2]

Political parties and elections

For other political parties, see List of political parties in Kazakhstan. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Kazakhstan.

On December 4, 2005, Nursultan Nazarbayev was reelected in a landslide victory. The electoral commission announced that he had won over 90% of the vote. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concluded the election did not meet international standards despite some improvements in the administration of the election. [3][4]

 Summary of the 18 August 2007 Assembly of Kazakhstan election results
Parties and alliances Votes % Seats
Nur-Otan 5,174,169 88.05 98
Nationwide Social Democratic Party (Zhalpyulttyk Sotsial-Demokratiyalyk Partiya) 271,525 4.62 0
Democratic Party of Kazakhstan Ak Zhol (Qazaqstan Demokratiyalyk Partiyasi Ak Zhol) 192,155 3.27 0
Auyl Social Democratic Party (Auyl Sotsial-Demokratiyalyk Partiyasi) 93,023 1.58 0
People's Communist Party of Kazakhstan (Qazaqstan Khalyk Kommunistik Partiyasi) 77,274 1.31 0
Party of Patriots 44,175 0.75 0
Rukhaniyat Party 24,308 0.41 0
Total (turnout 64.56%)   98

International organization participation

In 1999, Kazakhstan applied for observer status at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. The official response of the Assembly was that Kazakhstan could apply for full membership, because it is partially located in Europe, but that they would not be granted any status whatsoever at the Council until their democracy and human rights records improved. Improvement in these areas has been made for in 2012, Kazakhstan was elected by United Nations members to serve on the UN Human Rights Council.[5]


See also


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