Kazakh MPs grant president lifelong immunity

Kazakhstan’s parliament has approved past amendments to the law that grant incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been leading the former USSR republic since 1989, the title of “Leader of the Nation”.

In addition, the bills passed by the lawmakers in the Majilis, the lower house, provides guarantees of inviolability of Nazarbayev’s and his family members’ property. The country’s state information agency Kazinform reports, the documents also establish responsibility for obstructing the activities of “the Leader of the Nation”.

“The amendments were developed with the consideration of significant historical mission of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” Deputy Rozakul Khalmuradov, one of the initiators of the bill, said.

Notably, all seats in the Majilis belong to the Nur Otan party, which is headed by the president. The faction won 88% of the vote in a parliamentary election in 2007.

After getting the go ahead from the lower house, the two bills will be forwarded to the upper house – the Senate – for consideration, after which it should also be approved by the “Leader of the Nation” himself.

“We propose adopting a constitutional law assigning National Leader status to Kazakhstan's first president,” Interfax agency cites Kazakh MP Amzebek Zholshibekov as saying at a parliamentary session. “It is also necessary to ensure strict guidelines regulating his constitutional powers, as well as guarantees of his work.”

He stressed that it is necessary “to make it absolutely clear that [Nazarbayev] enjoys total immunity from criminal prosecution or administrative sanctions, and that he cannot be prosecuted for any measures taken by him during his presidency.”

The move will most likely spark a wave of criticism from the opposition and might not be welcomed with too much excitement by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which is chaired by Kazakhstan this year.

Nazarbayev has already been enjoying unprecedented powers in the country. For instance, according to Article 42 of the Kazakh Constitution, “one and the same person may not be elected the President of the Republic more than two times in a row”. Nevertheless, “the present restriction shall not extend to the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.”

Among other signs of honor and “thank you” from the Kazakh people to their national leader was opening a Museum of the First President of the Republic in Astana in 2004. Nazarbayev served as First Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party from 1989 to 1991. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the nation’s independence in 1991, he has been the President of Kazakhstan.

With the new amendments passed, the head of the state that has vast natural recourses will get almost unlimited freedoms since investigations into his actions as president will be excluded.

Ferghana.ru, citing “experts’ opinions”, writes that MPs will push forward the adoption of the bill by July 6, the birthday of Nazarbayev, who will turn 70 this year. Earlier, the president banned all celebrations dedicated to his anniversary and instructed not to give him any presents.

It will be “a simple day – a Day of the City,” Nazarbayev said on March 12 during a meeting with regional governments, Kazakh information agency reported. On July 6, the republic will celebrate the day of capital – Astana – which was declared a bank holiday in the country.

Natalia Makarova, RT