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New Kazakhstan: the path to change

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On the eve of Nauryz, the most important holiday in the Kazakh calendar, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivered his state of the nation address to the people with a Message marking the renewal of the state itself.

Experts noted that the content of the President’s address testified to a serious step of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the way to democratisation.

The people of Kazakhstan received the Message with great enthusiasm: for the first time the Head of State himself raised issues concerning the powers of the President. So, from the mouth of Tokayev, a long-awaited encouraging statement rang out: the republic is moving away from the super-presidential model of government.

In particular, the Head of State will be legally banned from membership in any political party for the period of his mandate, the same applying also to the chairmen and members of the Central Election Commission, the Accounts Committee and the Constitutional Council. Akims (local governors) and their deputies will not be able to hold positions in party branches. The President’s closest relatives will also be banned from holding political positions and leading quasi-governmental structures.

President Tokayev outlined the reformatting of the representative branch of government: it was decided to reduce the presidential quota in the Senate from 15 to 10 deputies, reduce the total number of deputy seats in the Majilis by abolishing the quota of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan. Now the ANC will have a quota in the Upper House, but in a reduced form – 5 deputies instead of 9.

In order to strengthen parliamentary control over the quality of execution of the national budget, the Accounts Committee will be transformed into the Supreme Audit Chamber, whose chairman will report directly to the deputies of the Lower House twice a year.

According to the President, in order to increase citizens’ confidence in the representative government, special attention should be paid to local representative bodies – maslikhats. Thus, the post of Chairman of the maslikhat will be introduced, the procedure for appointing regional akims will change, and the President will appoint akims of regions and cities of republican significance, taking into account the results of consideration in maslikhats.

Several instructions were also given regarding the improvement of the electoral system. For example, the deputy corps of the Mazhilis will be formed thus: “70% on a proportional basis and 30% on a majority basis.” In addition, the mixed model will be implemented in the elections of maslikhats of regions and cities of republican significance. This will make it possible to move to a more harmonious and mixed electoral system that fully takes into account the rights of all citizens.

The message also discussed the expansion of opportunities for the development of the party system: the registration procedures of parties will be significantly simplified, the registration threshold will be lowered from 20 to 5 thousand people, the minimum number of regional representative offices and an initiative group of citizens for the creation of a party will be reduced.

The issue of modernisation of the electoral process was raised. The President proposed to normalise campaigning in social networks by fixing the relevant regulations and rules; as well as legislating the activities of observers, prescribe their rights and areas of responsibility; revise the principles of the activities of territorial election commissions; form a unified electronic database of voters.

In order to prevent the influence of individuals on the course of elections, it is considered necessary to set limits on the amount of donations to election funds and take effective measures to prevent the possibility of foreign interference.

The population is hotly discussing the topic of strengthening human rights institutions raised by the President, as the head of State raised the issue of tougher penalties for violence against women and children and the final consolidation of the decision to abolish the death penalty in the Constitution.

It is proposed to establish a Constitutional Court, which means only one thing – the strongest control over the activities of the President himself. The Prosecutor General and the Commissioner for Human Rights will have the right to appeal to this court.

In order to increase the competitiveness of the media, it was instructed to revise the “Law on Mass Media” taking into account the interests of the state, the demands of society and trends in the development of the media sphere.

In order to strengthen the role of civil society institutions, Tokayev made a proposal to create a National Kurultai. It will include representatives of all regions, a number of deputies of Parliament, members of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, Civil Alliance, public councils and organisations, authoritative public figures, representatives of business, industry and agriculture.

The ancestors of today’s Kazakhs had always discussed and made fateful decisions publicly. “This democratic tradition of the Great Steppe, which laid the foundations of national unity, will be revived,” the President noted, adding that “the new institution will form a unified institutional model of public dialogue, which will strengthen the interaction between the government and the people,”

Kazakshstan Astana

The improvement of the administrative and territorial structure of the country has also met with strong approval. Three additional regions will be created in Kazakhstan by dividing the huge areas of the regions, the internal infrastructure of which is quite worn out.

The decentralisation of local self-government was also covered in the speech: it is instructed to optimise the administrations of akimats; a decree will be signed on the de-bureaucratisation of the activities of the state apparatus, which has seriously hindered the development of the country.

In connection with the current situation in the world, which the President of Kazakhstan called a “geopolitical storm”, priority anti-crisis measures were announced. First of all, according to him, it is necessary to ensure the stability of the national currency, as this is a key factor in the economic security of the country. He signed a special decree that imposes restrictions on the export of currency abroad.

“Tough sanctions confrontation already leads to serious costs not only for individual countries, but also for the entire global economy. But there is no reason to panic. Our country has all the necessary reserves and tools to overcome a large-scale crisis,” the President stressed. “We need to firmly adhere to the strategic course aimed at protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, ensuring the fundamental interests of our people. We must preserve our main asset – independence, strengthening the foundations of national identity, and focus on the transformation of the country. This is our sacred duty to future generations.”

According to him, all the announced initiatives will significantly change the political system and the administrative-territorial structure of the country. To implement this, it will be necessary to amend 30 articles of the Constitution, adopting more than 20 new laws. One thing is clear, experts have noted President Tokayev is reshaping the system not for himself, but for future generations.

“The current Message has a special meaning. It is not limited to one year, it is large-scale and meaningful. We set high goals for ourselves. Together with you, we have started building a New Kazakhstan,” President Tokayev concluded.

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