In 1995 Kazakstan passed through a period of political turmoil that fundamentally changed the shape of the republic's government and political forces. The republic came under direct presidential rule in March 1995, and a new constitution adopted shortly thereafter strengthened the power of the executive. Presidential elections, originally scheduled for sometime in 1996, were postponed until December 2000 after a 1995 referendum provided the basis for such an extension.
In May 1995, Nazarbayev convened a council of experts to draw up a new constitution under his guidance. The resulting constitution was adopted in August 1995 by a popular referendum. The official participation figure, 90 percent, and the fairness of this vote were contested by opposition groups. The constitution guarantees equal rights to all nationalities and prescribes both Kazak and Russian as "official" state languages, suitable for use in government documents and education. The president and the legislature, the Supreme Kenges (Supreme Soviet), are to be elected by universal adult suffrage for five-year terms. The president is head of state. The second component of the executive branch is the Council of Ministers, key members of which are presidential appointees. The prime minister, as head of the Council of Ministers, appoints the other ministers.
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