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Kazakh President Addresses New One-Party Parliament

Nazarbaev said Kazakhstan had successfully emerged from a transition period (file photo) (official site) September 3, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev today addressed the first joint session of the newly elected parliament in Astana.

Nazarbaev congratulated the deputies on gaining office and outlined the tasks facing the legislature, which is composed of members of only one political party, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

Nazarbaev said the August parliamentary elections were fair and open -- despite the fact that the opposition parties did not win one single seat and international observers said the elections did not meet international standards.

Nazarbaev emphasized that voters had cast their ballots for parties' platforms, and not for individuals.

"For the first time, the people voted not for individual candidates, but for parties' programs," he said. "That means that your position as deputies should be focused on parties' positions."

'Democratic Development'

Nazarbaev also claimed that the country has entered a new phase of democratic development after successfully overcoming the problems of a transition period.

"Thanks to constitutional changes adopted recently, the political system in our country has taken the form which is common to most democratic states," Nazarbaev said.

The constitutional changes gave the lower house of parliament, the Mazhilis, more powers, such as naming the prime minister. But they also removed the limit on the number of terms the Kazakh president can serve, opening the door for Nazarbaev to serve several more terms.

Outlining his goals for the new parliament, Nazarbaev said the government and parliament should concentrate on resolving economic and social problems.

He said the country's per capita GDP should increase by 50 percent by 2012 to reach $13,000.

Nazarbaev said Kazakhstan should work to create the most advanced health-care system among former Soviet republics.

He called for 150 hospitals and 300 health centers to be built in rural areas, and for improvements in the salaries of medical workers and the quality of medical services.

Nazarbaev also said some 250 new schools will be built and more money will be allocated to improve the country's education system.

Parliamentary deputies took an oath in front of Nazarbaev promising to honestly serve the Kazakh people.

A former deputy premier, Aslan Musin, was elected speaker of parliament.

On September 2, the committee heads of the Kazakh parliament's lower house were elected.

Kazakhstan held early elections to the Mazhilis on August 18. The Nur Otan party of Nazarbaev won all of the seats in the 107-member legislature after reportedly winning some 88 percent of the vote. Opposition parties disputed the final elections results.

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