Kazakhstan will go to extraordinary presidential elections on 20 November 2022. This will be the start of an integrated process of deep reforms, amounting to metamorphosis – well-planned and carefully designed metamorphosis.
Spearheaded by President Tokayev, the new formula of the political system is the product of open debate at all levels, the feedback from different sectors of the society, and the lessons learned from the events during the recent past.
The new political formula aims for “Strong President; Influential Parliament; Accountable Government,” paving way for a Just State, a Hearing State.
In order to appreciate the significance of the newly introduced reforms, let’s look at their key features:
- A Constitutional Court has been established.
- The Commissioner for Human Rights has been granted immunity.
- The death penalty has been abolished.
- The threshold for the registration of political parties has been lowered – instead of 40000 eligible voters, now only the signatures of 5000 eligible voters will be enough to apply for the registration of a political party.
- There will be a mixed electoral system – 70% on proportional representation, 30% on majoritarian basis.
- The president will be elected for just one term of 7 years, without the right to re-election.
Among these, the most notable is the limitation of just one term for the president.
President Tokayev, speaking to the people, said, “7 years is a sufficient period for the implementation of any ambitious program. Limiting the presidential mandate to one term will ensure the maximum focus of the Head of State on solving the strategic tasks of national development.”
In fact, the recognition that there is only one term of seven years, will put a president straight away into legacy mode. There will be no need of political compromises and cosmetic changes for the sake of re-election. The president will go into office with full realization that his/her place in the history will be determined solely by their performance during the seven years in office.
The transparency and certainty that will automatically come with the provision that the president is in office just for a term of seven years, will cement the national cohesion. —– President Tokayev said, “…We are facing a particularly important task – to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. To further strengthen statehood, we need solidarity. There is no other way… Our people have always put peace and stability above all else…. In modern geopolitical conditions, we need to consistently strengthen our statehood, firmly follow the course of reforms and renewal….”
It goes without saying that predictability and stability will be the by-products of the policy and practice of the president under such conditions.
This is what President Tokayev hinted at when he said, “… Limiting the presidential mandate to one term will ensure the maximum focus of the Head of State on solving the strategic tasks of national development … For me, the interests of the state are above all. Therefore, I am ready to go to early presidential elections, even despite the reduction of my own term of office … The constitutional innovation proposed by me will significantly reduce the risks of monopolization of power ….”
As noted earlier, Kazakhstan is going into metamorphosis. The presidential elections will be quickly followed by the elections for the Mazhilis (parliament) and maslikhats (local bodies). The entire process will be completed by the middle of 2023. —– This will complete the transformation of all the three institutions – the presidency, the parliament, and the government.
It is already possible to guess at some of the features of the parliament and the government that will take shape next year as a result of these reforms.
For example, let’s look at the combined effect of the provision of % candidates coming through proportional representation and new political parties entering the arena with just the support of 4000 eligible voters. —– On one hand, the political parties with broad reach and deep influence among the electorate will be able to bring the candidates to the system from the areas where their ground support is rather weak, and on the other hand, the small political parties with sharp focus on one city or town will be able to acquire local power to implement their own local development agenda.
As such, the goal of a Hearing State and a Just State will be implemented both ways – top-down, and bottom-up.
It is also the declared part of the reforms that there will be no ‘pro-government party.’ This will negate the possibility of any influence or pressure from the administrative sources.
It will also mean that the president will be able to form his team solely on their merit rather than their party affiliation. This will be enable to make the best use of the national talent pool.
The priorities of foreign relations of Kazakhstan are also part of the comprehensive package for gaining and maintaining traction in this new and emerging world, a world where every country needs to remain agile and flexible.
At the heart of the multi-vector foreign policy of Kazakhstan, there is the preference for solid partnership with the Turkic World. The recent examples of this policy are the agreement with Ankara for the production of Turkish military reconnaissance and attack drones in Kazakhstan, and the unambiguous moral and political support for Azerbaijan in its ongoing disagreements with Armenia.
There is the active promotion of mutual interests with the Gulf countries, particularly Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Kazakhstan lobbies actively for the resolution of the Syrian conflict.
China has a very special place in the foreign policy priorities of Kazakhstan. The areas of partnership are steadily growing and widening.
There is the close partnership with the USA and European Union, being solidified by the reciprocated visits at all levels.
The structural reforms that constitute the shape and extent of the metamorphosis of Kazakhstan are also greatly advantageous for the neighbours of Kazakhstan.
First, the president that is in office for just one term of seven years, will have a positive sense of urgency. This will speed up the processes of bilateral and multilateral nature.
Second, the flexibility that will be natural to the parliament and the local governments under the edifice of proportional representation will create space for direct economic partnership of the provinces of Kazakhstan with the provinces of the neighbouring countries.
Third, the declaration that there will be no ‘pro-government party,’ will allow for broader and more inclusive dialogue with the authorities and entities of the neighbouring countries.
Kazakhstan has embarked on metamorphosis. Central Asia cheers. ///nCa, 14 November 2022