카자흐스탄 헌법개정 이후 전망은?
[아시아엔=자낫 모민쿨로브 <아시아엔> 카자흐스탄 특파원] 카자흐스탄은 오랜 염원이던 정치개혁을 추진하여 국가권력의 변화를 이루게 됐다. 헌법개정과 권력 재분배에 대한 논의를 시작함으로써 중앙아시아 정치발전에도 큰 영향을 미치게 될 것으로 보인다.
나자르바예프 카자흐스탄 대통령은 지난해 12월 15일 대통령 권한 축소와 국회 및 정부 권한 확대를 골자로 하는 자신의 의견을 피력했다. 나자르바예프 대통령은 이어 지난 1월 25일 대국민 연설을 통해 헌법개정안을 내놓았다. 나자르바예프의 정치개혁안은 카자흐tm탄의 민주화와 사회경제 발전에도 큰 영향을 줄 것으로 전망된다.
나자르바예프 대통령은 뒤 이어 개혁안을 바탕으로 해당 헌법조항 및 법률안 개정안을 국회로 보냈으며 국회는 이를 승인해 대통령에게 되돌려 보냈다. 나자르바예프 대통령은 지난 3월 9일 헌법개정 법안에 서명을 마쳤다.
개정 헌법의 주요 골자는 다음과 같다. 첫째, 대통령의 입법 권한이 국회로 이전되며 둘째, 대통령은 내각과 국무총리의 정책결정을 거부할 수 없으며 셋째, 대통령은 내무부, 외교부, 국방부 이외의 장관에 대해서는 임명권을 가질 수 없다. 하지만 지금처럼 시장·도지사에 대한 임명 및 해임권은 계속 유지된다.
헌법개정에 따라 국회는 국가 최고기관이자 입법기관으로 정부활동을 통제할 수 있는 권한을 더 부여받게 됐으며 정부는 모든 정책결정 및 실제 활동결과를 국회에 제출해야 한다. 국가경제 운영과 관련해 행정부의 책임과 권한이 확대됨에 따라 각 부처 장관들의 입지가 대폭 늘어나게 됐다.
국민투표의 경우 그동안 국회 및 행정부의 제안을 대통령이 승인을 얻어야 했지만 새 헌법은 헌법위원회 승인을 얻도록 했다.
대통령의 권한 축소와 국회 권한 확대를 뼈대로 하는 헌법개정에도 불구하고 카자흐스탄의 정치 불균형은 계속 될 것이란 전망도 있다. 국가권력 체제의 핵심은 그대로 두었기 때문이다.
이같은 일부 부정적 전망과 달리 대다수 분석가들은 이번 헌법개정이 △국민여론 수렴이 아닌 대통령의 결단에 의해 이뤄졌으며 △단기간에 실시됐고 △카자흐스탄 최초의 국가권력 재배치인 점 등을 들어 정치발전에 상당히 기여할 것으로 보고 있다.
헌법개정은 좀더 효율적인 행정체제와 국가기관들의 협력으로 카자흐스탄 경제발전에도 긍정적인 영향을 줄 것으로 예상된다. 특히 그동안 카자흐스탄의 ‘덜 성숙한 민주주의’를 우려해 투자에 주춤거렸던 서구자본의 움직임이 일어날 것으로 보는 시각도 있다. 세계적인 원유가 하락에 따라 새로 발생하고 있는 각종 사회·경제 문제 해결에 직면한 나자르바예프 대통령이 던진 승부수가 어떻게 귀결될지 카자흐스탄 국내외의 관심이 높아가고 있다.
Constitutional Reforms in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan pushes forward as long-awaited political changes finally happen, which is something new for the region. The change in power in neighboring Uzbekistan in 2016 accelerated politization process in Kazakhstan. Thus, discussions on the amendments to constitution and re-distribution of power emerged on the agenda. These processes can be considered as a beginning of important political developments in Central Asian region.
On December 15, 2016 President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed to reduce presidential powers in order to empower Parliament and Government. This changes were expected to increase efficiency of government system.
On January 11, 2017, special working group was established on constitutional amendments and distribution of powers. During his public address speech on January 25, 2017, President N.Nazarbayev presented the amendments to be made to constitution. The proposed amendments were evaluated by working group and politically active part of people between 26 January and 26 February.
The political reforms expected to be made in Kazakhstan are aimed at reducing authority of the President and facilitating political transition process in the country. Reforms could ensure democratization and socio-economic development of Kazakhstan. Recently, the proposed amendments were discussed and endorsed by the Parliament of the country and on March 9, President of Kazakhstan signed the law on the Amendments to Constitution.
In general, 26 amendments were made to 19 articles of the Constitution along with 35 amendments to other laws. Nearly 35 authorities of President were given to Parliament and Government. According to the amendments, President of the State will deliver 23 authorities to Parliament in the fields of finance, economy, state ownership and administration.
According to Constitution the state government system will be preserved and responsibilities of other branches of power will be increased. All the legislative powers of President will be given to Parliament. From now on, state programs will be approved not by President, but by the Government (Article 44). This will increase the Government’s responsibility before people and Parliament.
The President shall no longer be entitled to stop the decisions of Government and Prime Minister. In addition, President will cease to have the power to issue decrees equal to laws. However, the status of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is stated in the Constitution (Article 91). According to the same article, it is emphasized that Kazakhstan’s independence as a principle cannot be changed in any case along with its unitary structure and territorial integrity.
According to new amendments, President of the State appoints only Ministers of Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Defense. In other words, President will be responsible for controlling defense and security, foreign and domestic politics. Future Presidential candidates have to be highly educated. Government members who do not comply with the law, may be removed from office by the President (Article 57). President preserves the right to evaluate activity reports of Government members.
President will nominate mayor of the capital, governors of “oblasts” (provinces) and major cities. The right to appoint other governors will be given to Parliament. At the same time, President may remove governors from office.
Parliament is a supreme state body and legislative power that fulfills legislative functions (Article 49). After term of office is expired, Government shall resign before Parliament, not the President (Article 70). Parliament will be empowered with additional powers to control Government’s activities. The Government will inform about its all decisions and activities by submitting reports to Parliament. Parliament will play an essential role in shaping of the cabinet. Government’s responsibilities and authorities in economy management will increase and cabinet of ministers will be more active and mobile.
In addition, role of Supreme Court will be strengthened. According to proposal by the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan, “interfaith harmony” will be protected at Constitutional level as unchangeable principle (Article 39). “Astana International Finance Center” will have status with special legal protection, though this article has been criticized by some lawyers for giving of extraordinary rights to the center. The only article that caused severe debates in society was Article 26, which meant to bring amendments to property rights. Although, the article has been postponed for an indefinite period, however, this would trigger some challenges or unexpected reaction from part of the people in the future.
According to old Constitution, referendums were held by the President’s decision on the proposal of Parliament and Government. President could present the constitutional amendments to Parliament. From now on, President of the State will be able to initiate referendum only by the approval of Constitutional Council. Though, it seems to limit authority of President, in fact, Head of Constitutional Council will be appointed by the President. In other words, constitutional amendments partly will depend on the will of President, which might affect future mechanism of amendments to the Constitution.
Those who commit terrorist crimes will be deprived of citizenship by the court decision. Operating procedures of international agreements in the country will be stipulated in national legislation.
However, some of local analysts argue that political imbalance in the country will last as the reforms have not been completed. According to them, the backbone of amendments is that “the basic essentials of state power system will not change”.
Although constitutional reforms were made in a very short time compared to other countries, however, it is important and symbolic historical change in Kazakhstan’s political development. For the first time the country witnessed re-distribution of powers of the regime. The process is essential for the democratic and political development of the region as well as for domestic situation in Kazakhstan. The reforms would stabilize social tensions, caused by systematic problems in the country.
It is expected that the reforms will positively affect the economic development of Kazakhstan as a result of establishing more efficient administrative system and coordinated works of power branches and state institutions.
These reforms will be also beneficial for further development of relations with the Western democratic countries in terms of attracting foreign investments. It is also a necessary step for resolving of pressing internal challenges, influenced by socio-economic effects of price decline in world energy markets. Thus, formal and legal basis for social and political changes were laid down in the country. One should state that Kazakhstan is on the verge of a new political and historical turning point. Actually, Kazakhstan needs and deserves a start of new and different period of active development.