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Monochrome Legislature Hands Kazakh PM New Mandate

Prime Minister Karim Masimov (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) ASTANA, September 2, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakhstan's lower house of parliament has renewed Prime Minister Karim Masimov's mandate in the first legislative session since the ruling party swept every seat in national elections.

Addressing lawmakers today, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said his Nur Otan party's landslide election victory will allow parliament to adopt all necessary laws to speed up the economic and political modernization of the country.

All deputies in the 107-seat Mazhilis for today's vote backed Masimov's return to office. He was first appointed prime minister in January.

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported that the vote was a technical requirement in the wake of the parliamentary polling.

On September 1, pro-business technocrat Masimov asked parliament to initiate a confidence vote in compliance with the constitution.

Lawmakers also unanimously elected former Deputy Prime Minister Aslan Musin as speaker of the Mazhilis. Sergei Dyachenko and the leader of Nur Otan's faction in the lower house, Bakytzhan Zhumagulov, were elected deputy speakers.

The Mazhilis has long been a rubberstamp institution for President Nazarbaev, but elections in the past generally left a few seats in the hands of other parties.

Official results showed the Nur Otan party with 88 percent of the vote in the August 18 elections, leaving the opposition with no seats under a system that includes a 7 percent threshold to reach parliament.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors called the vote a step forward for democracy but said it still failed to meet international standards.

Nazarbaev is Kazakhstan's only president since it declared independence from the Soviet Union 16 years ago. He recently orchestrated passage of legislation that ostensibly allows him to serve an unlimited number of terms as president.

(with additional material from kazinform, Interfax, ITAR-TASS, Reuters)

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