Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 123

The government of Kazakhstan received an unprecedented rebuff from parliament yesterday, barely surviving–thanks only to a technicality–a motion of no confidence. The motion to dismiss the cabinet of ministers was approved by margins of 23 to 11 in the Senate and 34 to 18 in the Milli Majlis (lower house). The constitution, however, requires a majority of two thirds of the total number of deputies in each chamber–that is, 29 out of 43 in the Senate and 45 out of 67 in the Majlis–for passing a valid motion of no confidence.

Prime Minister Nurlan Balgymbaev had precipitated the vote after the parliament had rejected the government’s revised budget for 1999, which incorporated austerity measures recommended by the International Monetary Fund. The revised budget cut government spending proportionately to the fall in revenue, though leaving the projected deficit at the original level of 3.7 percent of gross domestic product. But many deputies objected to the spending cuts, favoring instead–openly or tacitly–a larger budget deficit and monetary emission. Balgymbaev and other executive branch officials criticized those deputies for embracing “economic populism” in the run-up to the parliamentary elections which are due this autumn.

The prime minister postponed a prescheduled official visit abroad in order to arm-twist some deputies before the vote. The austerity budget now goes into effect even though both majorities in both chambers voted against it. Majlis Chairman Marat Ospanov commented afterward that the vote amounted to a defeat for both sides: the government lost the parliament’s confidence while a majority of the deputies in both chambers lost political credibility (Habar, June 23, 24).

The event raises questions about the actual extent of President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s control of parliament. The government of Kazakhstan is a presidential government, and Nazarbaev is known to have supported the austerity measures as part of his reformist course, even if he did not involve himself directly in this particular fray. The fact that majorities in both houses voted against the policies of the executive branch suggests that the president can no longer count on controlling the parliament in a crunch. That crunch is a two-fold one: a deteriorating economic situation and the approaching elections, in which many deputies may seek advantage in running against the government rather than as its proxies.

The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at pubs@jamestown.org, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions