Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 16

On July 21, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s office announced that he had signed the law adopted on June 27 by the parliament, conferring a lifetime political role on Nazarbaev. The law had required the president’s signature to go into effect. Nazarbaev acted one day after the Constitutional Council had certified both the law and the parliamentary procedure of its adoption as conforming to the country’s constitution.

Although it stops short of mentioning presidential “powers” or “prerogatives,” the law awards Nazarbaev–as the “first president of Kazakhstan”–open-ended “rights” and “privileges,” which cumulatively amount to a lifetime political role. When his presidential powers expire, Nazarbaev will be entitled to address the country at any time, issue “policy initiatives” to state bodies and government officials, attend and address sessions of the parliament and the cabinet of ministers, hold a seat on the Security Council and one on the Constitutional Council, chair the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan [inter-ethnic accord forum, made up of officially selected representatives of the country’s ethnic communities], and award the annual Prize for Peace and Progress.

Under the same law, Nazarbaev gains lifetime retirement privileges for himself and his immediate family, as well as lifetime immunity from legal liability for any of his actions as president–with the hypothetical exception of “high treason.” The immunity extends to Nazarbaev’s person, dwellings and offices, documents, means of communication and all personal possessions. The Civic Party–led and funded by industrial managers, the second-largest pro-presidential party after Otan (Fatherland)–had initiated this bill.

Nazarbaev has led Kazakhstan since 1990 and has indicated that he plans to seek reelection when his current seven-year term expires in 2006. With that much time to spare, and with Nazarbaev’s proven ability to produce electoral triumphs, the political intent behind this law seems as difficult to explain as its timing. Suppositions that Nazarbaev had inspired the bill only in order to veto it, so as to refute the criticism focused on his personality cult, have not been borne out. At this juncture, the conferral of a lifetime political role may be seen as a form of reinsurance against any political or health hazards between now and 2006.

Nazarbaev marked his 60th birthday on July 6. He is not known to suffer from any serious medical problems. Politically, the president himself, his team and his family seem to be sitting firmly in the saddle. A flattering biographical volume–titled “Leader”– was published on the anniversary in a print run of 25,000 copies in Russian and only 5,000 in Kazakh. Nazarbaev’s son-in-law, Rahat Aliev, head of the Almaty city and region department of the National Security Committee, has recently been awarded commendations and distinctions in quick succession and in the media’s limelight. Just days before Nazarbaev’s lifetime prerogatives took effect, Rahat received credit for a purported exploit of his department in Africa. Rahat’s undercover operatives are said to have found, seized and flown home an AN-12 military transport plane which had unlawfully been sold to a Central African country by Kazakh and Russian military personnel in Kazakhstan. Should these commendations turn out to be the early signals of a political buildup of Rahat, then the law on Nazarbaev’s lifetime entitlements may begin to make sense as part of preparations for the 2006 succession.

“The Fortnight in Review” is prepared by senior analysts Jonas Bernstein (Russia), Stephen Foye (Security and Foreign Policy), and Vladimir Socor (Non-Russian republics). Editor, Stephen Foye. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4526 43rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of “The Fortnight in Review” is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation