Kazakh President Unequivocally Rejects Referendum, Calls for Early Presidential Poll
Nazarbayev Supports Constitutional Council’s Rejection from Earlier in the Day
ASTANA, January 31, 2011 – President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan today finally rejected the idea of holding a referendum to extend his term of office to 2020 by a national referendum and said that, being faithful to democratic principles, he would submit a bill to the Parliament calling for an early presidential election, almost two years ahead of schedule.
Calling the one month saga with the referendum a “complex political situation” and “a historical lesson in democracy”, the President explained his thinking the following way: “One the one hand, I cannot reject the nationwide initiative of the overwhelming majority of voters. On the other, as the President and as a guarantor of the Constitution, I cannot create a precedent which would set wrong guidelines for next generations of politicians.”
“I hope the people would understand me correctly. I offer all of us to look at this situation not as a “rejection or acceptance”, but as a historical lesson in democracy which life itself has taught us,” President Nazarbayev said in an address televised live on TV channels across Kazakhstan. “As the first democratically elected President, proceeding exclusively from the highest interests of the country, I made the decision not to hold a referendum.”
“Instead of a choice dividing us, “either referendum, or election,” I offer a formula that unites us all and that takes into account the will of the people and the faithfulness to democratic principles. I am introducing the proposal to hold early presidential poll, despite the fact that this reduces my term of office by almost two years,” the President declared.
“A relevant bill will be submitted to the Parliament,” President Nazarbayev added.
Earlier on January 31, Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Council (CC) ruled that replacing the presidential election, scheduled for 2012, with a referendum to extend the term of office of President Nazarbayev, would have contradicted the Constitution of Kazakhstan, according to a ruling announced by Chairman of the CC Igor Rogov.
“The Constitutional Council has made a decision to declare the law “On Amendments to the Constitution,” adopted by Parliament on January 14, 2011, unconstitutional,” Rogov announced at a meeting of the CC. Rogov added that “the Law ‘On Amendments to the Constitution’, adopted by the Parliament on January 14 and declared unconstitutional, cannot be signed and put into effect.” The Council’s decision enters into force upon its adoption and cannot be appealed.
“The President, according to the Constitution, has a right to make objections to the decision of the CC within a month, thus, the last word on the fate of the referendum remains with the head of state,” Rogov earlier said, although it is obvious now that the President chose not to protract this issue any longer. Earlier, Rogov also said that “the vagueness of the exposition of the given constitutional rule in practice may lead to an imbalance of state and public institutions provided under the constitution, thus, the President’s doubts about the constitutionality of the law adopted by Parliament were well founded.”
That meant that President Nazarbayev had the ultimate say in whether or not to go with the proposal of a referendum, and he now made his decision known.
Earlier, on December 27, Kazakhstan’s Central Election Commission registered an initiative of Kazakhstan’s citizens proposing to hold a referendum on the extension of President Nazarbayev’s term of office until December 6, 2020, thus doing away with the 2012 election.
In two weeks, more than five million signatures in support of the referendum, representing 55 percent of registered voters, were gathered.
In addition, members of Parliament initiated amendments to the Constitution designed to create a possibility of extending presidential powers of President Nazarbayev until 2020 based on the referendum without holding election. Nazarbayev, however, rejected Parliament’s proposal by his decree. Deputies of the Parliament overcame the rejection of the President at a joint session on January 14. Nazarbayev did not sign the adopted amendments and forwarded them to the Constitutional Council on January 17.
Delivering his annual state-of-nation address at a joint session of Parliament on January 28, Nazarbayev said that he intends to work as long as his health and strength allow provided there is unanimous support of the people.
In his address on January 31, he said this support was “a source of strength” to go on serving the country, adding that a lot remains to be done. “We are confidently implementing the programme of accelerated industrial and innovative development and social modernization. I am confident, that together we will realize all our aspirations and plans, and make our Motherland successful and prosperous. Let us build our future together!”