President Nursultan Nazarbayev may become Kazakhstan's "leader of the nation," with immunity from prosecution and the power to dictate policy after retirement, even though he refused to sign a law that gives him this title.
Lawmakers in the Majilis, the lower house of parliament, unanimously voted last month to grant Nazarbayev the title, which also makes his property and that of his family inviolable. The president, who turns 70 in July, last week refused to sign the law in an open letter to the nation and thanked his supporters for the gesture.
Yet under Kazakh law, bills that the president doesn't sign nevertheless become law within a month if he doesn't send them back to parliament to be reworked. Aibatyr Seitak, a Majilis spokeswoman, said by telephone that the bill hadn't been returned as of today. Nikolai Galikhin, a presidential spokesman, declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.
Nazarbayev won his most recent seven-year term in a 2005 election that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said failed to meet "a number" of the organization's commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. Kazakhstan chairs the OSCE this year. The Central Asian country holds 3.2 percent of the world's oil reserves, according to BP Plc.
In 2007, Nazarbayev signed a law that exempted him from a constitutional two-term limit. His Nur Otan party later won 88 percent of the vote in a parliamentary election and became the only party in the Majilis.
Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, the government's newspaper of record, publishes letters from readers on its website intended to give a sense of the public's perception of Nazarbayev.
In one letter, a pensioner named Zhilkibai Beisov said he has but one wish -- for Nazarbayev "to remain as president for as long as possible and to lead our country into a prosperous future."
Nazarbayev's decision not to sign the "leader of the nation" law was "an example for many world leaders," as it showed an absence of vanity and ambition, Beisov said.