Birth of New Kazakhstan
(Part 1)

March 24, 2023

Democratic choice of Kazakhstanis. Results of political year of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

On Monday in Embassy of Kazakhstan in Russia the round table on results of past elections to Mazhilis - the lower chamber of parliament, and also in regional and local bodies of legislative authority has taken place. It was attended by deputies of the State Duma, famous Russian scientists, experts and political scientists.

Opening the meeting Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kazakhstan to the Russian Federation Ermek Kosherbayev said that the last elections were an important element of great changes in the country, when in less than one year unprecedented in scale transformations in the state and public life were realized.

"The changes which occurred in our country over the last year were announced a year ago, on March 16, 2022, when the head of Kazakhstan in his address presented a comprehensive reform program and, in fact, these reforms started to be implemented within a year. For our state, they are unprecedented in the scale of transformations in the state and public life. The program of reforms is systemic in nature and includes the transition from a super-presidential model of government to a presidential republic. This will redistribute a number of powers, strengthen the role and status of the Parliament, increase public participation in the governance of the country, and strengthen constitutional mechanisms for the protection of rights and freedoms of citizens," said Yermek Kosherbayev.

In addition, the ambassador recalled last year's referendum, where a majority of Kazakhstani citizens supported the constitutional reform. It included a one-time 7-year presidency term, a new order of parliament formation, strengthening of the powers of the legislature, simplification of the political parties registration procedure, due to which, for example, two new parties were registered - Baitak and Respublica. The Constitutional Court began its work.

"Thus, we have formed a new model of state and political structure with an optimal balance between the branches of power. We are now at the stage of completing the processes of system restructuring and rebooting of the key state institutions, because the elections of the president and senators have already taken place, and now there have been elections to the Mazhilis and maslikhats (national parliament, regional and local bodies)," the diplomat said.

The ambassador of Kazakhstan in Russia is sure that as a result of reforms the system of social values started to be updated and today more and more citizens are involved in the process of cardinal transformation of the state and society.

It is symbolic that the day of spring equinox, the holiday of Nauryz, came right after the elections.

"This holiday unites all our people," said the president of Kazakhstan. - We celebrate it as one nation. Nauryz embodies the values shared by our country. Therefore, Nauryz is truly a national holiday.

"The day before elections to Mazhilis and Maslikhats were held; they are a serious step in promotion of all our reforms, - continued the Head of Kazakhstan. - These elections were a worthy continuation of large-scale changes. In other words, a new milestone in the political development of the country has begun. It is symbolic that this historic moment coincided with the celebration of Nauryz. The completely renewed political system will give a strong impetus to the development of our state," the president said.
Congratulations are in order for President Tokayev, who, despite a challenging political year, steered the country with confidence and precision, ultimately leading it towards a strategic future.

There were plenty of doubts and doubters. But Kazakhstan, which in January of last year was actually on the verge of a coup d'état, in just one year has gone the way of not only stabilization, but also systemic reforms.

Let's analyze the results of the political year of President Tokayev and how he managed to form a mature and stable statehood with a developed political system and pluralism of opinions in such a short time; how things were going inside the country and what policy Kazakhstan pursued in the international arena; how the relations of Kazakhstan with Russia were developing under the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Western countries and unprecedented pressure of these countries on Kazakhstan with an appeal to join them.

From Mass Unrest to Political Stability
We shall not dwell on the January events, except to recall that at the very beginning of January 2022, mass pogroms, seizure of state objects, hundreds of wounded and dozens of dead demanded from President Tokayev tough, decisive action. Tokayev did not falter. He won, leaving the high-ranking conspirators no chance.

Speaking in parliament, Tokayev stressed that the incident, in addition to a criminal investigation, required a thorough analysis, honest work on mistakes and concrete government measures to deprive any potential insurgents of a social base. The actions of the security forces in suppressing armed gangs, contrary to the expectations of many, did not signal to tighten the screws in Kazakhstan. "As the tragedy of Alma-Ata and other cities in Kazakhstan showed, it is the lack of respect for the law, permissiveness and anarchy that lead to violations of human rights," said Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

The president said that he considered it "critically important" to understand why the state missed the preparations for the terrorist attacks; the militants had a clear plan of action, coordination, combat readiness and animal cruelty.

A month after the January protests and pogroms, the president of Kazakhstan paid a two-day visit to Russia. In fact, he arrived in a new capacity - now it was obvious to everyone that the transit of power in Kazakhstan is over, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has gained its fullness. On February 10, Tokayev held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, and on February 11 he visited Kazan. The trip was planned, but the context was radically changed.

On the eve of December 28, 2021 Kassym-Jomart Tokayev visited Russia to participate in the informal summit of the CIS in St. Petersburg. And not alone, but together with his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev. The first Kazakh president, who left his post in 2019, had all the guarantees of the leader of the nation and a place in the system of power, as well as the opportunity to participate in public affairs and negotiations. But the most onerous thing for the state was that Nazarbayev's relatives and people from his inner circle also remained in important positions in state and quasi-state structures.

Guarantor of Justice
It is remarkable, that in search of the reasons of Qantar, as they now call the January events, Tokayev did not blame everything on the conspirators, but saw the accumulated public weariness from the lack of social justice. The declining incomes of the majority of the population had become a threat to the country's security.

"There is a clear imbalance and an obvious problem of fairness in the distribution of national income," President Tokayev said at a meeting with representatives of the business community and big business this spring. He cited international experts who claim that 162 people own half of Kazakhstan's wealth today. At the same time, half of the country's population has a monthly income of no more than $115. "It is practically impossible to live on such money. As I said, such stratification and inequality is dangerous. We need to change the situation urgently," said the president of Kazakhstan.
Tokayev urged the business community to work with the state to build a new economic model. Its key principles are fair competition, transparency of decisions, predictability of state policy, tax honesty of business and its social responsibility.

"I want to emphasize once again, the reform in question is not aimed at "taking away and redistributing". That would be stupid, irresponsible. The task is to attract you, the national bourgeoisie, to the most active participation in the transformation of the socio-economic model of the country," Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said, addressing the participants of the meeting. In response to their investment in production, creation of quality jobs and growth of export potential, the authorities will increase guarantees of protection of private property, ensure stability and predictability of state regulation, protect competition from interference of administrative resources, from corruption and favoritism.

As a result, Tokayev did not reduce the pace of modernization, but announced the continuation of reforms. On March 16, 2022, he made an extraordinary address to the people of Kazakhstan, in which he announced the departure from the super-presidential model of government.

"An important lesson of the "Tragic January" is also that the concentration of powers in the hands of the highest official in the state unjustifiably increases the influence of those close to him and the financial and oligarchic groups. And they perceive the state as their personal fiefdom," Tokayev said.

"Nepotism, no matter what country it is, inevitably leads to negative cadre selection and becomes fertile ground for corruption to flourish. The head of state must act as an immutable guarantor of equal opportunities for all citizens."

The president of Kazakhstan announced that in the near future there will be a legal ban for the closest relatives of the president to occupy positions of political civil servants and leaders in the quasi-state sector, proclaimed the reformatting of the representative branch of power, proposed to simplify the rules of political party registration and increase the role of civil society institutions.

"We will ensure that the constitutional rights of every citizen are respected and a new political culture based on mutual respect and trust between the state and society will be formed. Diligent work, progressive knowledge and best practices will always be highly valued in our country. That is the kind of country I want to see New Kazakhstan," Tokayev said at the time, making it clear that he would not turn from the course of reforms he had planned.
Last April, a meeting of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan was held, during which President Tokayev put accents and drew red lines on another important issue - interethnic relations.

"It is unacceptable that the high values of patriotism are replaced by base feelings of ethnic superiority, and that mutual hostility and hate speech are inculcated instead of friendship and unity. It is unacceptable that external conflicts are used to foment inter-ethnic discord and form fault lines among our citizens. Provocateurs, no matter where they live, no matter what passports they may have and no matter what clothes they may wear, must not and will not undermine our unity and the right of our state to pursue an independent policy.

The head of the state mentioned the notorious "language patrols" that stirred up the public in Russia and Kazakhstan last year. According to Tokayev, these provocations were aimed at undermining the national unity.
"Kazakhstan is a multilingual state, and this is our advantage, our asset. At the same time, the state language is Kazakh. We must also remember this and take measures to strengthen the status of the Kazakh language, but not to the detriment and especially not to the detriment of any other languages and citizens who speak other languages", Kassym-Jomart Tokayev emphasized.

On May 25, 2022, the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between Russia and Kazakhstan will celebrate its 30th anniversary. The day before, at the meeting of the heads of the Collective Security Treaty Organization on May 16 in Moscow, the president of Kazakhstan said that he instructed his government to increase investments into Russia.

"Russia is the main partner for Kazakhstan in the trade and economic sphere, so the tasks I set for our government are not only to maintain this dynamics and the volume of trade and investment, but also to build up, despite all the difficulties coming from the current geopolitical realities," said Tokayev, who pays equal attention to both the domestic and international agenda.

Nationwide Council
On June 5, Kazakhstan held a national referendum on constitutional amendments. As a result, the Basic Law finally and irrevocably abolished the death penalty, re-established the Constitutional Court in Kazakhstan, stripped the president of some powers that he had previously enjoyed, and expanded the powers of parliament. Relatives of the president were legally forbidden to hold public service positions. Besides, the norm that the land and natural resources in Kazakhstan are owned by the people (before that by the state) was enshrined in the Constitution.

For these and other amendments to the Constitution more than 70% of Kazakhstan's citizens voted. In his address to the citizens on the results of the referendum, the President of Kazakhstan stressed that the amendments to the Constitution are not the final stage, but only the beginning of large-scale reforms: "We will continue all-round modernization of the country. On the basis of the updated Constitution, we will form a more effective model of functioning of all institutions of power, we will strengthen the mechanisms of checks and balances between them".

In his September State to the Nation Address at the opening session of the parliament, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev went further. He announced an amnesty for ordinary participants of the January events and that early presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in the Republic. The President said that the main, strategic goal of state policy is to build a fair Kazakhstan.

"The state will fully support economic freedom, but at the same time will resolutely protect citizens from excessive market fluctuations. Powerful development will be given to small and medium-sized businesses," Tokayev promised. He is convinced that in order to solve such chronic problems of Kazakhstan's economy as commodity dependence, low productivity, low level of innovation and uneven income distribution, the authorities must ensure macroeconomic stability, diversification, digitalization, development of human capital and the rule of law.

"The basic goal of our economic policy remains unchanged - qualitative and inclusive growth of the well-being of our citizens," the president of Kazakhstan said. He suggested raising the minimum wage and rebooting the pension system, which would increase aggregate pensions by nearly a third by 2025.

By 2025, 800 thousand new places for pupils will appear in Kazakhstan with a population of 20 million. Touching on the sphere of school education, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stressed: "We must bring up children who speak both Kazakh and Russian well."

Sanction swing
Meanwhile, the strategic partnership between Russia and Kazakhstan has begun to be actively tested for strength. Conducting an independent international policy in the style of UN provisions, Kazakhstan did not join the anti-Russian sanctions after the start of the SSR, but at the same time made it clear that it would not help circumvent them. "Kazakhstan will abide by all the restrictions that the international community has imposed on Russia, although work with Moscow will continue, Kazakh President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev told Russia 24 in an interview in early summer 2022.
"Sanctions are sanctions, we should not violate them, especially since we receive notifications regarding the fact that if sanctions are violated, so-called secondary sanctions from the West against our economy will follow," he explained.

At the same time, "Kazakhstan is by no means abandoning its allied obligations. It would be wrong, it would be, after all, unjustified in terms of perspective," Tokayev said.

The situation in interstate relations between Russia and Kazakhstan was exacerbated by the streams of partial mobilization evaders that poured into Kazakhstan after September 21.

"Bilateral relations between Russia and Kazakhstan have not been easy this year," said Alexander Kobrinsky, doctor of historical sciences, professor and director of the Agency for Ethno-National Strategies (AENS). "The life of Kazakhstan itself was not easy this year. Kazakhstan, as a friendly neighbor to Russia, found itself in a very difficult situation, given the international turbulence caused by the Anglo-Saxons. The sanctions that hit Russia ricocheted off all the countries that maintained friendly relations with the Russian Federation. On the one hand, Kazakhstan was subjected to moral pressure to somehow help its neighbor. On the other hand, the unprecedented blackmail, which came down on the power of Kazakhstan from the Anglo-Saxons. "You want your economy to survive - do what we tell you," the political scientist said and continued: "It has been very difficult for Kazakhstan. This year is one of the most difficult years that we've had in our relationship for the last 20 years. There was an endless number of provocateurs both from Russia and Kazakhstan. All this has seriously stressed the interstate agenda, but the leaders of our states have managed to come out of all these difficult and ambiguous moments with honor.