Kazakhstan’s president announces historic reforms strengthening democracy, the media, the judiciary, and the rights of citizens
Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) -The President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart-Tokayev announced historic political reforms to bring about democracy by transferring power to the government and parliament for the sake of a new Kazakhstan, and adopted the path of building a new Kazakhstan while ensuring fair and free political competition, with the aim of political transition to achieving equitable rules, eliminating the Nepotism and monopolies in all spheres of life, he said: “We have a clear vision for the future and new lines of Kazakhstan – an effective country with a strong civil society.”
During his State of the Nation address at the joint session of the Houses of Parliament yesterday, the President pledged to make efforts to strengthen the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Kazakhstan and to work for prosperity now, not in the future, and said: “It is time to build unity in society, acknowledging that the events of January 2022 have damaged Kazakhstan’s reputation. International, and that 30 amendments to the constitution are needed to implement its proposed reforms and an additional 20 laws must be adopted before the end of 2022.
In his speech, the President touched on improving the work of law enforcement agencies, protecting and strict enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution, improving the competitiveness of the media, establishing a new form of public dialogue, and strengthening the role of civil society institutions.
President Tokayev’s speech also dealt with the modernization of the electoral process, the designation of district regions on an alternative basis, simplification of the registration procedures for political parties, and the introduction of a mixed formation system of councils and district administrations in the electoral system.
President Tokayev said: “The presidential program for political reforms takes into account the opinions of experts and the public, and when developing the program, the proposals of academics, experts, public figures, political parties and public organizations were carefully studied, and the recommendations of members of Parliament, the Constitutional Council, the Central Election Commission, the Supreme Court, scholars and specialized experts were also considered.” .
The president added, “I firmly believe that our country still needs fundamental reforms, and the political transition aims to establish fair and equitable ‘rules of the game’, and to eliminate nepotism and monopolies in all areas of life.”
The President of Kazakhstan stressed that the people do not need abstract ideas and promises, but rather concrete changes for the better, and said: “We need to eradicate all artificial monopolies, both in the economy and in politics, and we have a clear vision of the future and new lines of Kazakhstan – an effective country with A strong civil society, and the main objective of political modernization is to increase the participation of citizens in the management of the state.
He added, “The path of building a new Kazakhstan aims to change the development model of the country. The establishment of a new Kazakhstan should be based on a harmonious combination of political and economic reforms, and further democratization is impossible without an independent and responsible media.”
The Presidential Program of Reforms symbolizes the beginning of a new era in the country’s political development, with a focus on strengthening democracy, accountability and sustainability in state administration, and aims to move the country from a higher presidential system of government to a presidential republic with a strong parliament. The program includes a basic review of the main institutions of the state, including: These include the office and powers of the president, the functioning of parliament and local self-government, as well as political parties, electoral, judicial and law enforcement systems.
The presidential program of reforms was formulated after consultations with the opinions of experts and thought leaders of civil society, including academics and public figures, and recommendations were taken from members of Parliament, the Constitutional Council, the Central Elections Committee and the Supreme Court. These reforms are a direct continuation of the previous reforms announced by the President, but were accelerated by the tragic events that occurred in the country this January and are now under investigation.
Key reforms include:
Presidential political party involvement: The President will be legally obligated to terminate his/her membership in a political party for the duration of his/her term of office.
Presidential powers in local government: The President will no longer have authority to remove local authority mayors.
Parliamentary oversight of appointments: Appointments by the President, the Chairman of the (newly established) Constitutional Court, and the Chairperson of the Supreme Judicial Council require the consent of the Senate of the Parliament.
Limits on the Civil Service: Civil servants and political officials will be limited to the number of positions they can hold simultaneously to avoid the over-concentration of power.
Electoral and Legislative Reform: The Lower House of Parliament, the Majilis, will be reformed to include a makeup 70-30 ratio of national to regional representatives. Reforms will also be set out to transfer the Central Election Commission to an independent professional management, and the lowering of the registration threshold for political parties from 20,000 to 5,000 members. In addition, the Majilis will have increased legislative authority.
Law Enforcement Reforms: With a renewed focus on the rights of the citizen in judicial process and issues of law enforcement, there will be a widespread investigation of accusations related to torture and mistreatment.
Final abolition of the death penalty to be excluded from the constitution.
Judicial Reforms and the Constitutional Court: There will be a Constitutional Court established to ensure constitutional compliance, with the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court to be granted to the Prosecutor General and Commissioner for Human Rights.
Civil Society and Civil Rights: The status of the Commissioner for Human Rights will be strengthened at the level of the Constitution and the Constitutional Law, and the role of public councils will be strengthened, and the format of their work will be radically renewed.
Freedom of the Press: The Presidential Program of Reforms noted the importance of the media’s role in raising pressing issues. Laws pertaining to mass media will be reviewed accordingly to ensure greater competition in the media.