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Kazakhstan: Constitutional Council Looks At Presidential Election Date

  • Bruce Pannier

The election date hinges on whether Nazarbaev can remain president until December 2006 Kazakhstan's next presidential elections are scheduled for the first Sunday of December 2006, or are they? That is what the country's Constitutional Council is now considering. Kazakhstan's opposition hopes to defeat incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev so their attention is fixed on the council's deliberation. It is a complicated issue and our correspondent takes a look at why some believe elections should be held according to schedule and why others say the poll must be held nearly a year before that.

Prague, 12 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council is reviewing the election date after an appeal from deputies in the Mazhilis, the lower house of parliament.

The deputies want to know if Nazarbaev can constitutionally remain president until December 2006, 11 months after his current term in office expires.

If not, presidential elections should be held the first Sunday of this December.

Onalsyn Zhumabekov, the head of the country's Central Election Commission, or CEC, recently said elections for the top post should be held on schedule.

"I propose that the next election for president of the Republic of Kazakhstan should be held on the first Sunday of 2006," Zhumabekov said.

Justice Minister Zagipa Balieva agreed and before Zhumabekov, she was the head of the CEC.

Those who question the December 2006 date refer to 20 January 1999, when Nazarbaev was inaugurated for a seven-year term in office. The Mazhilis deputies wanted to know what happens 21 January 2006 when that seven-year term is over.

Opposition presidential candidate Zharmakhan Tuyakbai of the 'For a Just Kazakhstan' movement said the maneuvering in the Mazhilis and review by the Constitutional Council were part of an act designed to lend legitimacy to a decision to hold elections this year.
One candidate believes the maneuvering in the Mazhilis and review by the Constitutional Council are part of an act designed to lend legitimacy to a decision to hold elections this year.


"I think the election will be held this year, there is no doubt about it -- more likely on the first Sunday of this December," Tuyakbai said. "Now they are looking through different alternatives how to organize it, including the possibility to organize (the election) with the help of the parliament."

Kazakhstan's opposition might be justified in believing the poll will be held this year, remembering that the 1999 election was held early. In October 1998, the parliament suddenly voted for early presidential elections, removed term limits for a president, and extended the term in office from five to seven years.

The opposition is preparing for a presidential election late this year and that is exactly what the ruling party says it wants also. Otan, the party created to get Nazarbaev reelected, already said it wants presidential elections this December. Deputy party leader Amangeldy Ermegiyaev said last week that presidential elections should be held this December or else the country risked being ruled by a president seen as illegitimate.

The Constitutional Council is unlikely to make any ruling unfavorable to President Nazarbaev. It was almost exactly 10 years ago that the council was created after Nazarbaev dissolved its predecessor, the Constitutional Court. That happened not long after that court ruled parliament was illegitimately elected. Nazarbaev used that court ruling to dissolve the parliament that had proven an obstacle to the Kazakh president's reform plans.

(Merhat Sharipzhan of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service contributed to this report)
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