Time for Change. Presidential Initiatives: What Awaits Our Country?

March 3, 2023

Immediately after taking office as president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev embarked on a course of political modernization, within which he managed to initiate a number of breakthrough reforms. And we will see their results in the coming months in the form of fundamental changes in the political system of the country. Experts of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (KISI) are discussing what will make it happen.

Yerkin Tukumov, Director of KISI:
"The introduction of these norms will fundamentally change the situation".

- An important stage in political modernization has been the signing of constitutional laws by the head of state. The initiatives, he had previously voiced in his addresses, were supported by the people during the referendum and were given legislative formulation. The main changes were in the system of human rights protection and elections.

Constitutional laws on the Constitutional Court and the Commissioner for Human Rights were adopted for the first time. This is a great step forward for Kazakhstan's legal system. Now citizens will be able to defend their constitutional rights and freedoms in the highest court independently or with the help of the Commissioner. Kazakhstan already had a Constitutional Court (1992-1995), but it never had time to realize its supreme mission. And now it is given a new impetus in any democratic state. I am sure that consolidation of the constitutional status of these major human rights institutions will be the legal foundation for building Fair Kazakhstan
The consistent course on the reform of the political system of the country has also expanded opportunities for citizens to form governing bodies. The updated constitutional law "On Elections" enables citizens to independently elect 170 regional akims and 38 akims of regional cities.

Moreover, the maslikhats of regions, Almaty, Shymkent and Astana cities will be half formed by party deputies and the other half by non-party deputies elected in single-mandate districts. This is a very important change, as it not only expands the opportunities for citizens to elect deputies, but also gives each of them a chance to be elected. The introduction of these norms will fundamentally change the situation on the ground. In fact, the reform will cover maslikhats in all 17 regions and three cities of national status.

As for more than 200 maslikhats in districts and cities of regional significance, their deputy corps will be 100 percent formed from non-partisan candidates from single-mandate districts. It will definitely increase the independence of the regions, increase their influence on the formation of the local budget and control over its implementation.

The consistent policy of the president on the decentralization of power and democratization of the political system has already created a basis for active civil participation in government. It listens to the people, and takes into account the interests and demands of society. I am convinced that the decisions adopted today will have a positive effect in the very near future.

Yerbulat Seilekhanov, Chief Researcher at the KISI office in Almaty:
"Deftly bypassed the Scylla and Charybdis of global confrontation".
- Last year turned out to be very difficult for the people of Kazakhstan. Tragic events of January showed great amount of risks and threats for inner stability of the country, which were being accumulated for several years. It is clear that this was influenced not only by the "black swans", such as the consequences of the pandemic, which had seriously worsened the living standards of the population, but also by the systemic flaws of the past time - clannishness, oligarchization, corruption, bureaucratism, deprofessionalization of the state machinery which resulted in irrepressible zeal and the desire to make profit by any ways and means.

Certain circles, wishing to preserve their privileges and increase their power and property, have made plans for a coup d'etat, which provoked a major political crisis in Kazakhstan. Fortunately, their criminal schemes have failed thanks to determination and steadfastness of the head of the state and measures taken by him to restore order.

At the same time, January events have forced the authorities to take a closer look at the internal processes and make conclusions about what is the real public demand for changes in the society. Thus, the concept of Fair Kazakhstan gained its concrete essence. It became obvious that justice - is not an abstract concept of philosophy, but is a very clear policy formula that requires specific actions. The acceleration of political reforms aimed at strengthening the democratic foundations and de-oligarchization of the economy was a reflection of this understanding.

The country consolidated this approach in the constitutional reforms adopted by popular referendum in June 2022. In fact, since that moment, the process of democratization in Kazakhstan has become irreversible. It is extremely important that the long overdue demand of the society for democracy was supported in principle by the President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who by his initiatives on limiting the presidential term of office to one seven-year term, the ban on holding political positions and managerial positions in the quasi-state sector by the relatives of the head of state has clearly demonstrated that usurpation of power and corruption in New Kazakhstan will have no place.

It would also be appropriate to note that Kazakhstan successfully and with dignity overcame external challenges, thanks to the great diplomatic experience of the country's leader who skillfully bypassed the Scylla and Charybdis of global geopolitical confrontation. We have maintained friendly relations with Russia and China, Ukraine and the West, while never compromising our independence.

It is not surprising that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had no rivals in the third major political event of the past year - the presidential election on November 20. The results of electoral campaign clearly showed that Kazakhstani people chose the one whom they really trust and with whom they pin their hopes for successful development of the country within the next seven years.

Asel Aben, head of the KISI office in Almaty:
"We are able to move forward on the path of transformation."

- It should be noted that the year 2022 was difficult for Kazakhstan in all respects - the country faced unprecedented domestic political challenges, extreme economic conditions and a difficult foreign policy situation. At the same time, it became for all Kazakhstanis a kind of test for readiness for deep transformations and a symbolic starting point of the renewed Kazakhstan.
If earlier the society expressed a certain skepticism with regard to the political and economic reforms conducted in the country, it was said that our country was not capable of upholding its interests and so on, then the events of recent months have demonstrated the opposite. We have proved that we are capable of unity, able to make informed choices, ready to defend our sovereignty and independence, to build a just society and move forward on the path of transformation. The people expressed their vote of confidence in President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and gave him a full mandate for further reforms by supporting his reform program at the referendum on the amendments to the Constitution and presidential elections.

In accordance with the chosen course, we now have to implement a number of economic reforms. It's no secret that for the last two or three years, the economy was practically managed by hand, while its successful functioning requires streamlined mechanisms and largely depends on the efficiency of the existing institutions. Political reforms, initiated by the head of the state last year, have laid a solid foundation for the implementation of the new economic policy, which will allow to modernize the economy and improve the welfare of the population.

Gulmira Tukanova, senior researcher at KISI:
Much in the socio-political life is to be changed

- The country is undergoing major changes, including significant political reforms. Radical changes have affected the distribution of powers between political institutions, the center and the regions, the principles of formation of representative power, and economic relations. With the Address of the head of state in March last year and the adoption of the constitutional amendments in the referendum, a large-scale structural political modernization of the country was launched. The institution of presidency was established according to new rules. From this year an important institution in the system of checks and balances - Constitutional Court - will start functioning. The Mazhilis and maslikhats will be elected on new principles.

The reforms initiated by the President became the beginning of changes for our country for the nearest decades. Many things in social and political life still need to be changed. This requires the active participation of civil society and business. Only in constant and open dialogue between society, business and the state can better decisions be reached.

Slyamzhar Akhmetzharov, head of the KISI Methodological Laboratory:
"There will be a complete reset of the political system".

- Firstly, there is the transition from super presidential political system to presidential republic with influential parliament and accountable government. In this context, a single seven-year presidential term, coupled with a new mandate of citizen trust, secures the course for further democratization. Second, Kazakhstan's electoral system was reformatted by introducing a mixed proportional-majoritarian model and simplifying the process of party registration. Third, protection of citizens' rights was strengthened through establishment of the Constitutional Court and granting guarantees to the institution of Ombudsman for Human Rights. Fourthly, the administrative-territorial structure of the country was partially changed through the establishment of Abai, Zhetysu and Ulytau regions. Fifth, civil society was involved in the process of working out reforms through the creation of a new national dialogue platform – Ulttyq Kuryltai.

In 2023 we will have a complete reboot of the political system of the country through a series of elections. Its restart was launched by elections to the Senate of the RK. The next stage will be the elections to the Mazhilis of Parliament and maslikhats of all levels. It should be noted that at the central level, the Mazhilis deputy corps consisting of 98 members is expected to be elected. At the local level the deputy corps of 20 regional maslikhats and more than 200 rayon maslikhats will be renewed. At the final stage the new government will be formed. Thus, already this year all major political institutions (Parliament, Maslikhats, Government) will be restarted.

Kuanysh Saylau, researcher at KISI:
"We have witnessed the establishment of new rules of the game.

- The key vector was a series of political reforms, which were aimed at a significant redistribution of power between the various branches of government and state verticals. In fact, we have witnessed the establishment of new rules of the game. And the public referendum held for the third time in the history of the independent state and based on the results of which 56 amendments to 33 articles of the main law of the country were made, became the most important stage in their formation.

Having received the approval of the people, the state set a course for further renewal of all the key roles of the authorities in accordance with the changes made. In the context of these processes, the election of the President was announced, who is now elected for a single term of seven years. With a new mandate of trust, the head of state began the implementation of his seven-year plan.

The year 2023 was a logical continuation of the electoral cycle. Already in the first month, elections were held to the upper house of parliament, the senate. In a month people of Kazakhstan will elect deputies to Mazhilis and Maslikhats. Also the process of electing rural akims, the beginning of which was laid in 2021, will be continued. Moreover, the composition of elected positions will be expanded, and residents will be able to elect rayon akims as well. Thus, we may witness the development of electoral culture in Kazakhstan.

Source: qmonitor.kz