Kazakhstan’s parliament is mulling legislative changes that would bestow vast, new powers on the incumbent president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. In addition to granting Nazarbayev the title of “leader of the nation,” he would gain the right to intervene in politics after he officially retired from the presidency and would enjoy enhanced immunity from prosecution.
The move to boost the already significant powers wielded by Kazakhstan’s president has drawn fire from opposition politicians and could tarnish Kazakhstan’s international image as it chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) this year.
Parliamentary deputies promoting the amendments say Nazarbayev occupies a special role in Kazakhstan’s national psyche. They talk up his role in shaping Kazakh statehood since independence in 1991, and commend him for successfully steering the country out of the ruins of Communist central planning and transforming it into an energy-rich regional economic powerhouse.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.