Article Kazakhstan: Newly Adopted Constitutional Amendments Introduce New Governance Model and Strengthen Role of Parliament

On June 7, 2022, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the Republic of Kazakhstan published Resolution No. 47/506 on the Results of the Voting in the Republican Referendum of June 5, 2022. The resolution confirmed that over six million citizens had cast their ballots in the nationwide referendum, with 77.18% voting in favor of adopting the proposed constitutional amendments regarding the governance of the country. The amendments became effective immediately.

The referendum had been announced in Decree No. 888, signed by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on May 5, 2022. The text of the bill containing the constitutional amendments was published the same day.

The amendments introduce a new governance model for the country, transitioning the government system from a super-presidential regime, in which “the president and his administration (the ‘apparat’) control political decision-making while the parliament and courts are only nominally independent,” to a presidential republic, enhancing the status of the parliament.

The amendments cover a wide range of issues, including, among other things, abolishing the death penalty, banning some officials from joining political parties, preventing relatives of the president from holding government positions, and establishing new principles under which  the Constitutional Court will function. (Bill “On Amendments and Additions to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan” art. 1, paras. 3, 4, 7(4), 23.)

Overview of Changes to the Constitution

The amendments provide for modifying the procedure for forming the national legislature and change the functions assigned to the Senate (the upper house of the Kazakh Parliament) and the Mazhilis (the lower house of the Kazakh Parliament).

The newly adopted constitutional amendments grant the Mazhilis the right to adopt laws and the Senate the power to approve or reject the laws adopted by the Mazhilis. (Art. 1, para. 20(4), (5).)

Another constitutional amendment grants the Senate the authority to approve candidates for the positions of chairpersons of the Constitutional Council, the Security Council, and the Supreme Judicial Council, and to confirm nominations submitted by the president for general prosecutor, chairperson of the National Bank, and other key positions. (Art. 1, para. 16(1).)

In addition, the amendments decrease the number of lawmakers in the Mazhilis from 107 to 98 and reduce the number of deputies the president can appoint to the Senate from 15 to 10. (Art. 1, para. 11(2).)

Under the new amendments, the president must seek approval from local assemblies before appointing mayors and governors. (Art. 1, para. 32(1).)

The amendments to the Constitution also provide for the reorganization of the Constitutional Court, increasing the number of judges from seven to 11. (Art. 1, para. 23.) The chairperson of the Constitutional Court is to be appointed by the president with the consent of the Senate. (Art. 1, para. 29.) Six judges are to be appointed by the Parliament (three by each chamber), while the other five are to be appointed by the president. (Art. 1, para. 23 (1), (2), (3).) These judges are eligible to serve no more than two six-year terms. 

Under the constitutional amendments, the president is prohibited from having an affiliation with any political party during his or her tenure. (Art. 1, para. 7.) The ban on membership in a political party while serving a term of office also applies to officials, such as the chairpersons and members of the Central Election Commission, the Supreme Audit Chamber, the heads and staff of the law enforcement agencies and armed forces, and the judges of all national courts. (Art. 1, para. 4.)

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Kazakhstan: Newly Adopted Constitutional Amendments Introduce New Governance Model and Strengthen Role of Parliament. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-20/kazakhstan-newly-adopted-constitutional-amendments-introduce-new-governance-model-and-strengthen-role-of-parliament/.

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Kazakhstan: Newly Adopted Constitutional Amendments Introduce New Governance Model and Strengthen Role of Parliament. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-20/kazakhstan-newly-adopted-constitutional-amendments-introduce-new-governance-model-and-strengthen-role-of-parliament/>.