UPDATE: Laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Web Based Resources

By Oleg Stalbovskiy & Maria Stalbovskaya

Update by Anuar A. Nurakhmet

Anuar A. Nurakhmet is alumnus of Kazakh University of Humanities and Law from Kazakhstan (2008) and holds Masters degree in International Taxation obtained at New York University School of Law (2011). Currently he is working in tax law firm in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Published July/August 2019

(Previously updated by Oleg Stalbovskiy & Maria Stalbovskaya in November/December 2008; subsequently updated by Anuar A. Nurakhmet in April 2011 and November 2013)

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1. Introduction

The Republic of Kazakhstan is a transcontinental country located in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. The territory covers 2.7 million square kilometers and country is ranked as the 9th largest territory in the world. It is neighbored clockwise from the north by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and also borders on a significant part of the Caspian Sea. The population is approximately 18 million people, including Kazakh, Russian, Uyghur, Ukrainian, Uzbek, and Tatar peoples. Approximately 63% of the population consists of Kazakhs. The capital city was Almaty up until 1997, when it was changed to Astana.

The official state language is Kazakh. In state institutions and local self-governing bodies, the Russian language is used on equal grounds with the Kazakh language. According to the 2009 census, 70.2% of the population is Sunni Muslims, followed by 20.6% Orthodox Christians, 0.1% Buddhists, 0.2% others (mostly Jews), and 2.8% non-believers.

The Kazakh khanate was formed in the 15th century and had 3 tribal divisions (juz). From the beginning of the 18th century Russian Empire begun colonization and by the 1860s, the Kazakh khanate became part of the Russian Empire. Alash Orda, a Kazakh Government led by Alikhan Bokeikhanov, existed between 13 December 1917 and 26 August 1920. The Alash Party proclaimed the autonomy of the Kazakh people in December 1917.

On 26 August 1920, the Soviet government established the Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which in 1925 changed its name to Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and then Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936. On December 16, 1991, Kazakhstan adopted the Constitutional Law “On State Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” which represented a major turning point in the nation’s development.

2. Legal System of Kazakhstan

The legal system of Kazakhstan is influenced by the traditions of both Islamic law and Roman law. Islamic law, which was in force up until early 1920, incorporated many norms of Adat, the local customary law consisting of traditional prescriptions of the peoples of the region. The influence of Roman law came primarily from the theory and practice of Soviet law and socialist principles.

Kazakh legislation is currently codified. Legislative and other normative legal acts can be categorized as constitutional, administrative, civil, criminal, labor-related, tax, customs or other material or procedural laws.

A strict hierarchy of the sources of law includes:

2.1. Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan

On January 28, 1993, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan adopted the first Constitution of the independent Kazakhstan. On 30 August 1995, it was changed to the contemporary Constitution, which was adopted by a nation-wide referendum. The Constitution was amended on October 7, 1998, on May 21, 2007, on February 2, 2011, on March 2, 2017, and on March 20, 2019.

On October 7, 1998, the Parliament enacted a “Law on amendments and complements to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan.” This revision dealt with matters pertaining to the president's term of office, age restrictions, succession of authority in case of his death or resignation, and terms of Majilis and Senate members.

As President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced at a joint session of the parliament on May 16, 2007, the proposed changes to the Constitution of Kazakhstanare as follows:

On February 2, 2011 an amendment related to the president’s election procedure was introduced. The Amendment provided that early elections of President of Kazakhstan shall be appointed by president and conducted in the order and terms prescribed in relevant Constitutional Law.

On March 2, 2017 the following main amendments were introduced:

On March 20, 2019 amendment was introduced and approved by Parliament that changed capital’s name enshrined in Constitution from Astana to Nur-Sultan.

The Main Law of Kazakhstan constitutionally requires a presidential form of government. This also requires law reform in present-day Kazakhstan to be based on ideological and political pluralism, with legislation ensuring human rights and social-legal guarantees.

The Constitution of Kazakhstan is available in English, Russian and Kazakh on the legal database supported by Ministry of Justice.

2.2. Constitutional Laws

Within the framework of the formation of the legal foundations of state order, the following constitutional laws were adopted. Adilet, the legal information system of regulatory legal acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan offers access to number of articles focusing on constitutional analysis. Click constitutional law from the main page, under Act form to access these articles. Below is a selected list of those that might be of interest.

2.3. Codes

The principal branches of Kazakhstan law have been codified. Here is the list of codes:

2.4. Other Normative Acts

Links to other Kazakh legal documents are available in English and Russian on “ADILET” - Ministry of Justice’s official online legal database.

3. State Order in the Republic of Kazakhstan

Article 3 of the Constitution states that the state power in the Republic of Kazakhstan is unified and executed on the basis of the Constitution and laws; this is done in accordance with the principle of its division into the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and a system of checks and balances that governs their interaction.

3.1. The Presidency

The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the head of state and the highest official in the state. The role of the president includes determining the main directions of the domestic and foreign policy of the state and representing Kazakhstan within the country and in international relations.

According to Article 40 of the Constitution, he shall ensure by his arbitration the concerted functioning of all branches of state power, as well as the responsibility of the institutions of power before the people. The President is elected every 5 years on the basis of universal suffrage. One person may not be elected President of the Republic more than two times in a row. However, according to Article 42 of the Constitution, this restriction does not apply to the First President, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbaev from 1989 through 1991, served as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. From February to April 1990, he concurrently served as Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. In April of 1990, he became the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. On December 1, 1991, the first general elections for the Presidency were held, in which Nazarbayev was reelected as head of the state. A nation-wide referendum of April 29, 1995 confirmed this decision. This referendum also extended the powers of the President until the year 2000. On January 10, 1999, Nazarbayev was elected again as President of Kazakhstan, supported by 79.78% of voters. On December 4, 2005, nation-wide elections for the Presidency of the republic were held again, where Nazarbayev won the support of 91.15 % of voters.

On March 20, 2019 Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned from presidency after serving on this position three decades and became a member of the Security Council, a council with wide-ranging authority to determine and control the country’s internal and external issues, as well as a member of the Constitutional Council.

The official website of President of the Republic of Kazakhstan has the following useful information in English, Russian and Kazakh in order to get a high-level understanding of country’s major development programs that have impact on legislation and/or later are formalized into law, decrees, or orders:

3.2. Parliament

The highest representative body of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the bicameral Parliament. It consists of the Senate and the Majilis, in accordance with Article 50 of the Constitution. The first two-chamber Parliament was elected in December 1995.

The Senate is composed of deputies elected in twos from each region and major city, as well as the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Elections are conducted at a joint session of the deputies of all representative bodies of the respective oblast or major city and the capital of the Republic. The President also appoints fifteen senators. The term of office for Senate deputies is six years.

The Majilis consists of 107 deputies, 98 of whom are directly elected by voters from the geographical electoral districts. 9 deputies are elected by the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan. The term of office for the Majilis deputies is five years.

The duties of Parliament in joint sessions of the Chambers include:

With adoption in 1995, the new Constitution the present Parliament replaced one-chamber body of the representative power - the Supreme Soviet. The first elections to the Senate and Mazhilis of the Parliament were held in December 1995. Total 47 deputies were elected to the Senate and 67 deputies were elected to the Majilis.

In autumn 1999 in accordance with introduced constitutional amendments, the elections on mixed scheme to the Mazhilis of the Parliament of the Republic were held. The scheme afforded the possibility for political parties to be elected to the Parliament as to party lists on the basis of proportional representation.

A new structure of the chambers of Parliament was formed in August 2007 according to constitutional changes and amendments of May 2007. The President additionally appointed 8 members to the Senate of Parliament on August 28, 2007, in view of the above-stated changes and amendments that increased the number of Presidential nominees up to 15 people.

According to the amendments to the Constitution, the Majilis consists of 107 members. 98 of them are elected on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot and remaining 9 deputies were elected by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan.

3.3. The Government

The Government implements the executive power of the Republic of Kazakhstan, preside over the system of executive bodies, and supervise their activity. The Government, in all of its activity is responsible to the President of the Republic and to Parliament, as stipulated by the Constitution. Article 66 of the Constitution sets forth the main government’s functions:

The prime minister and first deputy prime minister are appointed by the president. Council of Ministers is also appointed by the president. According to the Constitution President could appoint and dismiss the government, appoint administrative heads of regions and cities.

The website of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan contains some laws and decrees in Kazakh, Russian and English.

3.4. Constitutional Council

Part six of the Constitution contains fundamental regulations, which establish constitutional control in the Republic. This control is designated to the Constitutional Council, a body separate from the juridical system. The Constitutional Council is a state structure charged with ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution of the Republic as the basic law for the whole territory of Kazakhstan.

The Constitutional Council consists of seven members; the Chairman and two members are appointed by the President of the Republic, and the Chairmen of the Senate and Majilis each appoint two members for six-year terms. Ex-presidents are also life-long members of Constitutional Council. Half of the members of the Constitutional Council shall be renewed every three years.

Article 72 of the Constitution sets forth the following main functions of the Constitutional Council:

In addition, the Constitutional Council could consider the appeals of courts regarding particular legal act’s conformity to the Constitution. Its website contains the decisions of the Constitutional Council, the acting laws, articles and other information (Kazakh, Russian, English).

3.5. Judicial Authority

Justice in the Republic of Kazakhstan may only be exercised by the court. Judicial power shall be exercised through constitutional, civil, administrative, criminal, and other forms of judicial procedure as established by law. In certain cases, stipulated by law, criminal procedure shall be carried out with the participation of jurymen. The courts of the Republic include the Supreme Court of the Republic and local courts of the Republic which are established by law. The judicial system of the Republic is established by Article 75 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the constitutional law. The establishment of special and extraordinary courts under any name is not allowed.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the highest judicial body for civil, criminal, and other cases, which are under the courts of general jurisdiction. This court also exercises supervision over the activities of other courts in the form of juridical procedure stipulated by law and provides interpretation on the issues of judicial practice.

Article 77(3) of the Constitution sets forth the following principles that judge must abide when dealing with the case at hand:

The Chairperson of the Supreme Court, the Chairpersons of the Collegiums and judges of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan is elected by the Senate at the proposal of the President of the Republic based on a recommendation of the Highest Judicial Council of the Republic.

The Chairpersons of oblast and equivalent courts, the Chairpersons of the Collegiums and judges of the oblast and equivalent courts shall be appointed by the President of the Republic at the recommendation of the Highest Judicial Council of the Republic.

The Chairperson and judges of other courts of the Republic shall be appointed by the President of the Republic at the proposal of the Minister of Justice based on a recommendation of the Qualification Collegium of Justice.

The Highest Judicial Council is headed by the Chairperson who is appointed by the President of the Republic and consists of the Chairperson of the Constitutional Council, the Chairperson of the Supreme Court, the Procurator General, the Minister of Justice, deputies of the Senate, judges and other persons appointed by the President of the Republic. The Qualification Collegium of Justice is an autonomous, independent institution formed from deputies of the Majilis, judges, public prosecutors, teachers and scholars of law and workers of the bodies of justice.

The website of the Supreme Court contains useful information in Russian and Kazakh . The Constitution, codes, laws, secondary legislation, and decisions of the Supreme Court are available in Kazakh and Russian.

On March 2, 2017, an amendment to the Constitution was introduced that allowed the establishment of special legal regimes and courts based on English and Wales law in the Astana International Financial Center. AIFC Court is independent in its activities and is not part of the country’s general judicial system. Its purpose, as it was declared, is to protect the rights, freedoms and legal interests of the parties and to ensure that the acting law of the AIFC is implemented. AIFC Court consists of two courts instances: trial court and appeals court.

The chairman and judges of the court are appointed and dismissed by the president based on the recommendation of the Governor of the AIFC. The court does not carry out any criminal and administrative proceedings and has exclusive jurisdiction over:

AIFC Court’s activity is governed by the resolution of the council, "On the Astana International Financial Center Court", that is based on the principles and norms of England and Wales and/or the standards of other global financial centers.

Decisions of the AIFC Court of Appeal are final and not subject to appeal and are binding on all natural and legal persons. Its decisions are enforced in the same way in Kazakhstan as decisions of general Kazakh courts.

Useful legal information on AIFC Court such as constitutional statute, court regulations, court rules could be found in English on their website.

3.6. Local Public Administration and Self-Administration

Local public administration is exercised by local representative and executive bodies, which are responsible for the state of affairs of the respective territory. Local public administration is exercised by Akim and its Akimat apparatus. Akims of the oblasts, major cities and the capital are appointed to office by the President of the Republic on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Akims of other administrative-territorial units are appointed or elected to office in the order, determined by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The President of the Republic shall have the right to release akims from office at his own discretion.

The main functions of the local executive body are the following:

Local representative bodies are maslikhats. Deputies to maslikhat are elected by people for a four-year term. The main functions of the maslikhat include:

4. Further Legal Resources

4.1. Online

General Sources:

Legal Guides:

International Law:

Foreign Resources for Kazakhstan Legislation:

Local Kazakhstan Legal Web Sites:

There are following local reputable law schools in Kazakhstan:

4.2. In Print

According to the 1998 Law “On Normative Legal Acts,” the legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall be published in the “Vedomosti Parlamenta Respubliki Kazakhstan” (Registers of Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan), “Sobranie aktov Presidenta Respubliki Kazakhstan i pravitelstva Respubliki Kazakhstan” (Collection of acts of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan) and collections of acts of central executive and other government bodies of Republic of Kazakhstan

New legislation may also be published in the “Egemen Kazakhstan”, “Kazahstanskaya Pravda”, “Zan gazeti/Juridicheskaya gazeta” and “Oficialnaya gazeta”.

New laws, decrees, and administrative acts of the country are published in “The Bulleten’ normativnih pravovih aktov central’nih ispolnitel’nih i inih gosorganov Respubliki Kazakhstan” (“The Bulletin of Normative Legal Acts of the Central Executive and Other Governmental Bodies of the Republic of Kazakhstan”), which is published by the Ministry of Justice. Some court decisions and comments to legislation are published in "The Bulletin of the Supreme Court of the Republic Kazakhstan”.