Kazakh president set for `leader of nation` title

Kazakhstan`s parliament Wednesday approved constitutional amendments which would grant strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev the status of "leader of the nation" and immunity from prosecution.

Updated: May 12, 2010, 17:00 PM IST

Astana: Kazakhstan`s parliament Wednesday
approved constitutional amendments which would grant strongman
President Nursultan Nazarbayev the status of "leader of the
nation" and immunity from prosecution.

The bill, which still requires upper house approval,
raises new questions of the future of the man who has led
Kazakhstan since independence in 1991 and is accused by
critics of seeking to be head of state for life.

It was adopted unanimously by deputies in the Mazhilis,
the Interfax-Kazakhstan and official Kazinform news agencies
reported.

"The proposed amendments have been worked out taking into
account the historic mission of the first president of
Kazakhstan," said one of the initiators, Rozakul Khalmuradov.

The bill was proposed last week by Khalmuradov and two
other deputies from the ruling Nur Otan party, who compared
Nazarbayev with historic figures including George Washington,
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, and
Mahatma Gandhi.

"The leader of the nation would not be able to be brought
to criminal or administrative responsibility for acts carried
out while in office as president," said one of the deputies,
Amzebek Zholshibekov.

According to the text of the bill, immunity would also be
given to Nazarbayev`s property and all members of his family
living with him.

Nazarbayev has ruled the energy-rich Central Asian state
since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, before which he
was its top Communist Party official. He shows little sign of
ceding power.

PTI