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Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Court Passes Bill to Cancel Nazarbayev’s Title of Honorary Senator

By Vusala Abbasova January 13, 2023

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Nursultan Nazarbayev ruled Central Asia’s largest country for three decades since the country gained independence in 1991.

Kazakhstan’s first president Nursultan Nazarbayev lost his status of an honorary senator on Wednesday as the Constitutional Court passed a resolution to recognize the Law on the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy [the leader of the nation] as “invalid.”

The decision followed parliamentary efforts to bring the country’s laws into alignment with changes to the constitution passed in last June’s referendum. The referendum excluded the norms from the Constitution governing the status and powers of the First President.

“Based on the will of the people of Kazakhstan, expressed at the national referendum of June 5, 2022, on the exclusion of paragraph 4 of Article 46 and other norms from Constitution of the Kazakhstan, to recognize, that at the present time in the Constitution of Kazakhstan there are no legal grounds for the preservation of constitutional law on First President of Kazakhstan – Elbasy in acting law of Kazakhstan, in connection with that it is subject to recognition as invalid,” Astana Times quoted the court’s final decision.

The appeal requesting to cancel the law, which gives a range of privileges to Nazarbayev and his relatives, came from a group of deputies on January 5. The deputies questioned an official interpretation of Article 62 of the Kazakh Constitution, which states that “constitutional laws are passed on matters provided for in the Constitution by a majority of at least two-thirds of the total number of deputies in each chamber.”

The upper house of parliament awarded the title to Nazarbayev on May 30, 2019, when his daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, was its chairwoman.  The law on the First President granted Nursultan Nazarbayev exclusive rights and privileges, including retention of his and his family’s financial wealth and immunity from actions made while president and after, reports the court’s press service.

Nursultan Nazarbayev ruled Central Asia’s largest country for three decades since the country gained independence in 1991. Since then, Nazarbayev has been re-elected as president four times: in 1999, 2005, 2011, and again in 2015. In 1995, Kazakhstanis took part in a referendum to ratify his proposal to skip the scheduled 1996 presidential election and allow him to remain in office until 2000. Seven years later, parliament passed legislation to remove term limits.

After his sudden resignation in March 2019 Nazarbayev, who now is 82, retained control over the country as chairman of the security council and “Leader of the Nation” — a title that afforded him unique policymaking privileges as well as immunity from prosecution.

Last year Nazarbayev gave up his remaining powers as the head of the Security Council and the leader of the ruling party during and after violent unrest in January, 2022, which resulted in the death of over 220 people, while his allies also relinquished their positions.

Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has since changed the name of the capital — renamed “Nur-Sultan” in Nazarbayev’s honour — back to Astana. His victory in the snap election on November 20 is supposed to consolidate Tokayev’s power as an independent leader.