Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Politics of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency. The president is the head of state. He also is the commander in chief of the armed forces and may veto legislation that has been passed by the Parliament. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in office since Kazakhstan became independent, won a new 7-year term in the 1999 election that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said fell short of international standards. The prime minister, who serves at the pleasure of the president, chairs the Cabinet of Ministers and serves as Kazakhstan's head of government. There are four deputy prime ministers, 14 ministers, and 11 chairmen of state agencies. Kasimzhomart Tokayev, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, has been Prime Minister since 1999.

Kazakhstan has a bicameral parliament, comprised of a Lower House (the Mazhilis) and upper house (the Senate). The 77-seat Mazhilis is popularly elected by single mandate districts, with 10 members elected by party-list vote. The Senate has 39 members. Two senators are selected by each of the elected assemblies (Maslikhats) of Kazakhstan's 16 principal administrative divisions (14 regions, or Oblasts, plus the cities of Astana and Almaty). The president appoints the remaining seven senators. Mazhilis deputies and the government both have the right of legislative initiative, though most legislation considered by the Parliament is proposed by the government.

Political parties have traditionally played little role in local politics, where personal and family ties are more important. Several new parties formed and were registered in 1999 following passage of a constitutional amendment that created 10 new seats in the Mazhilis attributed by party-list voting. Three parties that support President Nazarbayev—Otan (Fatherland), the Civic Party, and the Agrarian Party—won 8 of the 10 seats; the communists won the other two. Two opposition parties, the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan (RNPK) and Azamat, were registered for the election. One member of RNPK, but no Azamat candidate, was elected, from a single-mandate district.

Kazakhstan is divided into 14 Oblasts and the two municipal districts of Almaty and Astana. Each is headed by an Akim (provincial governor) appointed by the president. Municipal Akims are appointed by Oblast Akims. The Government of Kazakhstan transferred its capital from Almaty to Astana on June 10, 1998.

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Kazakhstan
conventional short form: Kazakhstan
local long form: Qazaqstan Respublikasy
local short form: none
former: Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic

Data code: KZ

Government type: republic

Capital: Astana
note: the government moved from Almaty to Astana in December 1998

Administrative divisions:

Kazakhstan is divided into 14 oblystar (singular — oblysy) and 3 cities (qala, singular — qalasy)*:
Almaty, Almaty*, Aqmola (Astana), Aqtobe, Astana*, Atyrau, Batys Qazaqstan (Oral), Bayqongyr*, Mangghystau (Aqtau; formerly Shevchenko), Ongtustik Qazaqstan (Shymkent), Pavlodar, Qaraghandy, Qostanay, Qyzylorda, Shyghys Qazaqstan (Oskemen; formerly Ust'-Kamenogorsk), Soltustik Qazaqstan (Petropavlovsk), Zhambyl (Taraz; formerly Dzhambul)

note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses); in 1995 the Governments of Kazakhstan and Russia entered into an agreement whereby Russia would lease for a period of 20 years an area of 6,000 sq km enclosing the Bayqongyr (Baykonur) space launch facilities and the city of Bayqongyr (formerly Leninsk).

Independence: December 16, 1991 (from the Soviet Union)

National holiday: Day of the Republic, October 25, (1990) (date on which Kazakhstan declared its sovereignty)

Constitution: adopted by national referendum August 30, 1995; first post-independence constitution was adopted January 28, 1993

Legal system: based on civil law system

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Nursultan A. NAZARBAYEV (chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 22 February 1990, elected president 1 December 1991)
head of government: Prime Minister Kazymzhomart TOKAYEV (since 2 October 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term; election last held 10 January 1999, a year before it was previously scheduled (next to be held NA 2006); note — President NAZARBAYEV's previous term had been extended to 2000 by a nationwide referendum held 30 April 1995; prime minister and first deputy prime minister appointed by the president
election results: Nursultan A. NAZARBAYEV elected president; percent of vote — Nursultan A. NAZARBAYEV 79.8%, Serikbolsyn ABDILDIN 11.7%, Gani KASYMOV 4.6%
note: President NAZARBAYEV expanded his presidential powers by decree: only he can initiate constitutional amendments, appoint and dismiss the government, dissolve Parliament, call referenda at his discretion, and appoint administrative heads of regions and cities

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (47 seats; 7 senators are appointed by the president; other members are popularly elected, two from each oblast and Almaty, to serve six-year terms) and the Majilis (67 seats; the addition of 10 "Party List" seats brings the total to 77; members are popularly elected to serve five-year terms); note — with the oblasts being reduced to 14, the Senate will eventually be reduced to 37; a number of Senate seats come up for reelection every two years
elections: Senate — (indirect) last held 17 September 1999 (next to be held NA 2001); Majilis — last held 10 October 1999 (next to be held NA 2004)
election results: Senate — percent of vote by party — NA; seats by party — NA; 16 seats up for election in 1999, candidates nominated by local councils; Majilis — percent of vote by party — NA; seats by party — Otan 25, Civic Party 10, Communist Party 3, Agrarian Party 3, People's Cooperative Party 1, independents 32, 3 seats unaccounted for note — most independent candidates are affiliated with parastatal enterprises and other pro-government institutions

Judicial branch: Supreme Court (44 members); Constitutional Council (7 members)

Political parties and leaders: Agrarian Party [Romin MADENOV]; Alash [Soverkazhy AKATAYEV]; AZAMAT Movement [Petr SVOIK, Murat AUEZOV, and Galym ABILSIITOV, cochairmen]; Civic Party [Azat PERUASHEV, first secretary]; Communist Party or KPK [Serikbolsyn ABDILDIN, first secretary]; Forum of Democratic Forces [leader NA]; Labor and Workers Movement [Madel ISMAILOV, chairman]; Orleu Movement [Seidakhmet KUTTYKADAM]; Otan [Sergei TERESCHENKO, chairman]; Pensioners Movement or Pokoleniye [Irina SAVOSTINA, chairwoman]; People's Congress of Kazakhstan or NKK [Olzhas SULEIMENOV, chairman]; People's Cooperative Party [Umirzak SARSENOV]; Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan [Akezhan KAZHEGELDIN]

Political pressure groups and leaders: Kazakhstan International Bureau on Human Rights [Yevgeniy ZHOVTIS, executive director]

International organization participation: AsDB, CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS (associate), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NAM (observer), NSG, OAS (observer), OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, SCO, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (observer)

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Bolat K. NURGALIYEV
chancery: 1401 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 232-5488
FAX: [1] (202) 232-5845
consulate(s): New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Richard H. JONES
embassy: 99/97A Furmanova Street, Almaty, Republic of Kazakhstan 480091
mailing address: American Embassy Almaty, Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-7030
telephone: [7] (3272) 63-39-21, 63-13-75, 50-76-23
FAX: [7] (3272) 63-38-83

Flag description: sky blue background representing the endless sky and a gold sun with 32 rays soaring above a golden steppe eagle in the center; on the hoist side is a "national ornamentation" in gold.

See also : Kazakhstan