Constitution is the main backbone of the country
In countries that have embarked on the democratic path of development, the Constitution determines the main directions of movement of the society and state, which makes it possible to answer the question: “Where are we going? What is our ultimate goal? And how can we achieve it?” It is no coincidence that when people accepted the American citizenship, then the question arose: “Do you believe in the American Constitution?” The US Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and it is considered as the world's first constitution in the modern sense.
The Constitution of Kazakhstan is the core of the national political and legal system, the legal basis of the statehood and sovereignty of the country, law and order, the foundation on which all legislation and law enforcement practice is based. Nowadays, all the citizens of Kazakhstan refer to it as the most important and effectively working legal document.
Over the years, the Constitution of Kazakhstan has shown its high efficiency, ensured peace, harmony and prosperity, the progressive development of the country, an increase in the welfare of Kazakhstanis, an increase in trust and respect for the young and forward-looking state.
The state policy was aimed at the full implementation of constitutional values. The long-term program documents, such as the Strategies “Kazakhstan-2030”, “Kazakhstan-2050”, the Concept of legal policy for the period 2002-2010 and for the period 2010-2020 and other fateful documents, regularly updated and supplemented in the messages and speeches of the Head of State, formed the basis to carry out an active purposeful work on the full disclosure of the potential of the Constitution in all spheres of life.
At the current time, the fifth constitution is in force of Kazakhstan.
During the Soviet period, the three constitutions were adopted:
- The Constitution of the Kazakh ASSR in 1926;
- The Constitution of the Kazakh SSR of 1937;
- The Constitution of the Kazakh SSR of 1978;
The first Constitution of independent Kazakhstan was adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic on January 28, 1993.
The current Basic Law of the country is the result of the collective labor of many years, at the origins of which was the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev, who managed to rally millions of Kazakhstanis around himself at that difficult time and acted as a generator of ideas when developing his project.
When preparing the draft of the Basic Law, the President of Kazakhstan investigated more than 20 constitutions of different countries of the world personally. More than 3 million Kazakhstanis took part in the discussion of the project.
By the Decree number 2292 of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan as of May 22, 1995, an Expert Advisory Council under the President of the Republic was established to conduct an independent examination of the draft of the new Constitution, consisting of nine Kazakhstani lawyers and three foreign experts.
At the second session of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, held on June 30, 1995, the President of the country made a report “Comprehension of the past and further democratic reform of society” and had presented the draft of the new Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan for the first time. It was approved by the Assembly, that encouraged the people of Kazakhstan to vote for it.
On June 30, 1995, the draft of the Basic Law was published for public discussion. About 33 thousand collective discussions took place, and about 30 thousand proposals and comments were received during the month. Despite the fact that, in general, the ideology and the main content of the project were preserved, around 1100 amendments and additions were added to the 55 articles.
By the decree of the President of the Republic of July 28, 1995, the draft of the Constitution was submitted to the republican referendum on August 30.
The referendum was attended by 8 million 91 thousand 715 citizens of the Republic (90.58 percent of all persons included in the voting lists). 7 million 212 thousand 773 people, or 89.14 percent of those who voted, voted in support of the new Constitution. 800,839 people or 9.9 percent voted against the Constitution. And, 78 thousand 103 ballots were declared invalid.
As a result, on August 30, 1995, the current Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan was adopted at the republican referendum.
With the adoption of the Constitution of Kazakhstan, the process of legal registration of Kazakhstan's statehood was completed and the beginning of widespread transformations, the results of which surprise many people today, was laid as well.
The Constitution made it possible to solve the main task of the transition period in order to ensure the formation of a new subject of international relations of Kazakhstan within the legal framework exclusively. During this difficult period, the country managed to avoid the armed or other mass clashes and conflicts that took place in other countries. The progressive legal principles laid down in the text of the Constitution that ensured a smooth transition of the country to an independent path of the development.
Paragraph 1 of Article 1 of the Constitution defines the qualities of the new Kazakhstan, that asserts the country as a democratic, secular, legal and social state, the highest values of which are the person, his life, rights and freedom.
This means that the state has no more important task than caring for a person and his well-being. The human rights and freedoms determine the content and application of laws and other normative legal acts, that are fundamental in the development and adoption of laws. Raising a specific type of rights and freedoms to the constitutional level and declaring in the Constitution that they are guaranteed implies imposing a special duty on the state in order to ensure the implementation of these rights and freedoms.
The Constitution of the Republic has enshrined the principle of equality of all before the law and court, ideological and political diversity, a complex of personal, socio-economic, political, cultural and other rights and freedoms of human and citizen.
The thesis “Economy first, then politics” proclaimed at the dawn of independence by the President of the Republic, arising from the constitutional principle of economic development for the benefit of the whole people (paragraph 2 of Article 1 of the Basic Law), gave a powerful impetus to the formation of a market economy with a socially oriented orientation in the country. The recognition and equal protection of state and private property, freedom of entrepreneurship, inviolability of property, enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, are an important guarantee of the formation and functioning of the free market and business development.
The constitution determined the presidential form of government, the country's territorial integrity and the inviolability of sovereignty.
According to the Constitution, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the head of state, its highest official, who determines the main directions of the domestic and foreign policy of the state. The President acts as a symbol and guarantor of the unity of the people and state power, the inviolability of the Constitution, human and civil rights and freedoms. It ensures the coordinated functioning of all branches of government and their responsibility to the people.
Article 2 of the Basic Law stipulates that the sovereignty of the Republic extends to its entire territory. The state ensures the integrity, inviolability and inalienability of its territory. The Republic of Kazakhstan is a unitary state with a presidential form of government.
The Constitution resolved the issue of the relationship between national and international law, that allows the country to take part in the activities of international organizations, initiate integration processes and pursue a multi-vector foreign policy. The provision of Article 8 of the Constitution that the Republic of Kazakhstan respects the principles and norms of international law means the desire to take them into account when creating the domestic law. In the event that an international treaty of the Republic of Kazakhstan or its individual provisions are recognized in accordance with the established procedure as contradicting the Constitution of the Republic, which, in accordance with paragraph 2 of the Article 4 of the Basic Law, has the highest legal force in the territory of the Republic, such an agreement is not subject to the execution.
Nowadays, a bicameral Parliament is operating successfully, executive bodies headed by the Government function effectively, an independent judicial system is developed and improved as well.
One of the important institutions ensuring the rule of law in the country is the prosecutor's office.
The activities of the Ombudsman for the Human Rights, Ombudsman for the Rights of the Child, the legal profession, notaries and other institutions are aimed at protecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of human and citizen. The protection of the country's sovereignty is ensured by the national security agencies.
The amendments and additions to the Constitution of Kazakhstan were made five times: in 1998, 2007, 2011, 2017 and 2019.
Thus, the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan as of October 7, 1998 “On Amendments and Additions to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan” amended 19 articles of the Constitution.
The composition of the Mazhilis of the Parliament was increased by ten mandates, replaced by the proportional representation system. Some strengthening of the position of the Parliament was made due to the presidential prerogatives and additional control parliamentary powers, as well as the possibilities of legislators to introduce the constitutional amendments with which the President of Kazakhstan does not agree. The Constitution was supplemented by the provision on the election (or an appointment) of akims (except for the regions, cities of republican significance and the capital) in the manner determined by the President of the Republic. The institution of jurors in criminal proceedings and other novels has been established too.
The Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan as of May 21, 2007 “On Amendments and Additions to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan” amended 40 articles.
The main substantive positions of this constitutional reform were: strengthening the guarantees of the rights and freedoms of citizens; activating the role of public associations and political parties, the practical implementation of which leads to the creation of a modern civil society, the integration of political parties into the state mechanism with their transformation into the main instrument for revealing the desire of the people and its subsequent transformation into state power (election of 98 mazhilismen in accordance with a proportional electoral system); strengthening the parliamentarism through a significant enrichment of the legislative and representative functions of the Parliament as a whole, updating the statuses of the Mazhilis and the Senate of the Parliament, giving the composition and activities of the Mazhilis the function of a conductor of party programs, improving the status of a deputy and organizational forms of exercising the competence of the Parliament; an increase in the number of senators appointed by the President to fifteen; the formation of a largely new mechanism of relations between the legislative branch of power – the Parliament (primarily the Mazhilis) and the executive branch of power – the Government, that becomes a state instrument for the implementation of party programs; raising the constitutional status of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, its election of nine mazhilismen; some redistribution of power resources in the triad President – Parliament – Government; a fundamentally new characteristic of local self-government and others.
The Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan as of February 2, 2011 No. 403-IV “On Amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan”, Article 41 was supplemented by paragraph 3-1, that established the institution of early elections of the Head of State.
As the Constitutional Council has repeatedly noted, a well-defined constitutional and legal policy determined by the supreme power and value-oriented constitutional and legal practice mutually complement each other, contribute to the effective implementation of the Basic Law, work to improve the quality of execution and application of its provisions and norms, level of legal awareness of citizens and civil servants.
The constitutional reform of 2017 has become a new logical stage on the path of a consistent comprehensive transformation of the society and state in line with the Strategy “Kazakhstan-2050”, Kazakhstan's entry into the thirty most developed countries. It crowns the execution of the Five Institutional Reforms of the President of the Republic N.A. Nazarbayev and creates the political and legal preconditions for the qualitative growth of Kazakhstan within the framework of the third stage of modernization and ensuring the country's strong position in global competitiveness.
The law of March 10, 2017 amended 25 articles of the Constitution.
A number of the novels are aimed at ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution in the system of existing law and its unconditional implementation throughout the country, improving the state governance, strengthening the protection of constitutional rights and freedoms of human and citizen, ensuring the fulfillment of constitutional obligations by citizens.
The law carried out a democratic modernization of the presidential form of the government by clarifying the constitutional status of the Head of State, strengthening the role, independence and responsibility of the Parliament and Government, redistributing powers between the President, Parliament and Government, based on the principle of unity and separation of state power. The amendments to the constitutional foundations of the judicial system and the prosecutor's office are envisaged as well.
In order to increase the effectiveness of the Constitution, the Law of March 10, 2017 strengthened the institution of constitutional control and increased the responsibility of the Constitutional Council.
The list of specially protected constitutional values has been expanded: “The independence of the state, unitarity and territorial integrity of the Republic established by the Constitution, the form of its government, as well as the fundamental principles of the Republic's activities laid down by the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy, and its status are unchanged” (paragraph 2 of Article 91 of the Constitution).
The amendments and additions introduced by the Law fill the constitutional values and fundamental principles of the Republic's activities with new content. A constitutional reform carried out on the initiative of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy meets the logic of the country's historical evolution and ensures its further democratic development with the invariability of the presidential form of government.
The foreign partners also highly appreciate the Law. The European Commission for Democracy through Law of the Council of Europe (Venice Commission) at its 110th plenary session adopted a conclusion, which emphasizes that the constitutional changes in Kazakhstan represent a step forward in the process of democratizing the state.
The last amendment to the Constitution was introduced by the Law on March 23, 2019 regarding to renaming the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana to Nur-Sultan.
This issue was the subject of consideration of the Constitutional Council at the request of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The Constitutional Council, in its conclusion as of March 20, 2019, acknowledged that the amendments made to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan regarding to renaming the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan Astana to Nur-Sultan are related to the acknowledgement of the historical role and perpetuation of the merits of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the people of Kazakhstan. Therefore, they do not affect the issues of independence of the state, territorial integrity of the Republic, the form of its government, as well as the fundamental principles of the republic's activities, laid down by the founder of independent Kazakhstan, the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy, and do not contradict the requirements of the Basic Law.