On the Nuances of a Sudden Transition

Due to the topical nature of the subject of the power transition in Kazakhstan, our readers often ask about the duties of the new state leader who will assume the power in the case of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s sudden death or inability to perform his duties.

For example, will this person have the full presidential authority, will she have to call early presidential elections or will she continue to “rule” to the end of the term, will she be able to change the Constitution, etc.

To clarify this, we have contacted Head of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law Evgeniy Zhovtis.

“Article 48 of the Constitution stipulates that, in the case of the president’s early resignation or impeachment, also in the case of his death, the presidential powers, until the end of the term, are given to the head of the Senate. If the head of the Senate is unable to assume the power, it is given to the head of the Mazhilis (Lower House) of the Parliament. If the head of the Mazhilis is unable to assume the power, it is given to the prime-minister of the country. The person that assumes the power is relieved from the duties of the head of the Senate, the head of the Mazhilis, the prime-minister”, reminded Evgeniy Zhovtis.

“The key words here are “until the end of the term”. Thus, it is assumed that the person receiving the presidential powers will perform her duties until the end of the current term. The powers include the possibility to hold early elections since, according to Article 41 of the Constitution, the president can call early presidential elections. And neither the Constitution nor the Constitutional law contain any indications as to what the grounds for calling early presidential elections are”, said the expert.

He specified that the Constitution, the Constitutional law on the elections, and the Constitutional law on the president do not speak of any limitations to this right for the person who assumes the presidential powers in compliance with Article 48.

“The only thing this person cannot do is change the Constitution. As for calling early presidential elections, this person I believe can do so. By the way, the 2010 scholarly and practical commentary to the Constitution of Kazakhstan (as well as the previous one) edited by current Head of the Constitutional Council of Kazakhstan Igor Rogov, contains no clarification on the matter”, said Evgeniy Zhovtis.

In other words, of the power transition in Kazakhstan will follow, say, the Uzbekistan scenario or will simply happen due to the current president’s sudden loss of ability to conduct his duties, calling early elections can be presumed to be the right of the new state leader, not her obligation.


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