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Kazakhstan: President to Be Made Lifetime Head of Security Body

A draft bill being considered by lawmakers may also enhance the Security Council's scope of action.

Lawmakers in Kazakhstan are considering a bill granting President Nursultan Nazarbayev lifetime chairmanship over the nation’s security council.

The body is currently ostensibly consultative, but its duties give it considerable latitude in setting the terms of national defense policy. Making Nazarbayev a security council chairman-for-life would ensure he retains considerable political clout even should he decide to finally step down.

According to RFE/RL’s Kazakhstan service, Radio Azattyq, the draft bill now under consideration would also significantly modify the status of the Security Council from “consultative” to “constitutional.” That distinction implies the council would not only concern itself with national security, but would be ultimately directly responsible for “protecting internal stability, defending the constitutional order and upholding national interests on the international stage.” In effect, this would make the Security Council another branch of executive office.

The move in parliament in effect further formalizes a process that has been in motion since last year. The Justice Ministry had indicated during constitutional reforms enacted in March that Nazarbayev — who is officially known by the honorific Yelbasy, or "leader of the Nation" — would always be chairman of the Security Council.

“This once again underlines the fact that Yelbasy has a special status and is accorded special trust among the population,” Justice Minister Marat Beketayev said on February 8. “In these times, when the threat of terrorism is so current, especially for the population at large, the factor of stability is important.”

Critics of the measure are certain that the government’s goals are quite different. Political activist Sergei Duvanov told Radio Azattyq that he believed the new set-up would allow Nazarbayev to intervene directly in extreme situations, giving him the ultimate say in running the country. Options open to the Security Council chairman would include deploying internal troops or declaring a national state of emergency, Duvanov suggested.

Kazakhstan: President to Be Made Lifetime Head of Security Body

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