Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 180

Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev proposed constitutional changes yesterday which would reduce his substantial executive powers by increasing those of the two parliamentary chambers. In his annual address to the nation, broadcast live on national television, Nazarbaev told parliament that he would like to see a program of democratizing political reforms, with a decisive strengthening of the opposition.

Kazakhstan’s second constitution of 1995 enshrined an executive domination of the system, with a subordinate judiciary and legislature. Yesterday’s proposals included (Reuters, September 30):– giving parliament’s two chambers the right to change the constitution given an 80 percent majority and voter approval (previously a presidential right only)– simplifying the voting system to make it easier for all political and religious parties to take part in elections– creating an additional ten seats for deputies in the lower house based on party alignment rather than place of residence– making government ministers more accountable to both houses of parliament– increasing the Supreme Court’s autonomy by removing the president as its head– and privatizing some state-owned media (Russian agencies, September 30).

The proposed reforms, however, do not address how the president plans to curtail his own powers–which, for example, allow him to reshuffle government ministers on a whim, block parliamentary decisions or control, and issue decrees with legal status.–SC