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HomeUncategorizedSince Tokayev's election… Four political & economic reforms have strengthened Kazakhstan's democracy

Since Tokayev’s election… Four political & economic reforms have strengthened Kazakhstan’s democracy

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Astana – Since his first election in 2019, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan has initiated a range of reforms aimed at political, social, and economic modernisation of the country, which four comprehensive packages of political reforms have been successfully implemented over 2019-2021, The first package (December 2019) aimed to liberalise the political landscape, meanwhile the second package (September 2020) focused on local governance and human rights. The third package (January 2021) included lowering the entry threshold for political parties in the Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament) from seven to five percent, adding an “against all” option in election ballots, and introducing elective district akims. Continuing the previous initiatives, the fourth package (September 2021) emphasized the inclusion of marginalized groups in politics, among other initiatives.

Furthermore, in a 2022 national referendum, the first since 1995, a solid majority of voters approved amendments to the Constitution that decentralised decision-making, among other major changes. The constitutional reforms, affecting one third of the main law, transformed Kazakhstan from a super-presidential system to a presidential republic with a stronger parliament. This included provisions to restrict the president’s powers, changes in the parliamentary election system, re-establishment of the Constitutional Court, and measures to simplify the registration of new political parties.

Significant changes have been made to the legislation concerning democratic participation and the rule of law. The aim is to balance the presidential powers with a strong parliament and more independent judiciary, along with encouraging local governance and greater public participation in the decision-making process in line with the “Listening State” concept. In addition, the reforms have contributed to a more balanced political system and enhanced accountability, ensuring the irreversibility of the political transformation towards a ‘Just and Fair Kazakhstan.’

The implementation of these reforms, which are interlinked with economic and social reforms, has been well-received by the international community and has set a foundation for continued modernisation in Kazakhstan, and the key reforms are:

Democratic Participation:

  • simplified, and the electoral process has been enhanced
  • The threshold for political parties to gain seats in the lower house of Parliament has been lowered from 7% to 5%. Additionally, the requirement for the minimal number of members in citizens’ action groups to create a party has been cut by almost a third, from 1,000 to 700 members.
  • Political reforms introduced a 30% quota for women, young people, and persons with special needs, first, on electoral party lists and, later, in the very allocation of parliamentary mandates.
  • The constitutional reform has enacted a limit of a single seven-year term for presidents, prohibiting their re-election.
  • Reduce the presidential power over local office-holders and close relatives of the President are banned from senior roles in government and quasi-state companies.
  • In 2023, Kazakhstan conducted its first-ever elections for akims (local mayors of districts and cities of regional significance).

Human Rights Mechanisms:

  • Adoption of seven laws aimed at addressing issues such as domestic violence, labour safety, and the establishment of regional child rights ombudspersons.
  • Kazakhstan has enshrined the constitutional status and responsibilities of the Human Rights Ombudsperson by adopting a special Constitutional Law.
  • Kazakhstan has also appointed an Ombudsman for Children’s Rights and an Ombudsman to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
  • The Constitutional Court has been re-established to further protect rights and freedoms by enabling citizens to appeal directly to the court.
  • More than 5,300 appeals from citizens were received since the launch of the Court in 2023, indicating an increase in civil interest in participating in governance through the Constitutional Court.
  • The Constitutional Court provided consultations to more than 750 citizens in 2023.

Human Rights and Rule of Law:

  • A new law on peaceful assemblies has been adopted.
  • Kazakhstan has completely abolished the death penalty.
  • The list of jobs where women’s work was restricted has been abolished.
  • Legislative measures have been implemented to combat torture, ensure objective investigations, and hold those responsible accountable.
  • The Mazhilis, , approved legislative amendments to promote the safety of women and children and prevent crimes against them.
  • The media law is being reformed to create a safer digital space.

Economic Reforms:

  • President Tokayev unveiled in September 1, 2023plans for transitioning to a new economic model, including further demonopolization and diversification of the economy.
  • Tokayev emphasised the transition to a new economic model that prioritises fairness, inclusiveness, and pragmatism.
  • The country is prioritising industrial and economic self-sufficiency, particularly developing the manufacturing sector and diversifying the economy.
  • Support for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) is another priority. Policy reforms have been implemented to create a more favourable business environment for SMEs.
  • As part of the goal to employ over 3.3 million citizens by 2029, efforts are being made to create 450,000 new jobs, including 200,000 (44%) for young people.
  • In 2022-2023, Kazakhstan attracted $41.3 billion in direct foreign investments. The goal is to attract $150 billion over the seven years from 2022 to 2029.
  • Kazakhstan aims to reduce the shadow economy to 15% of the GDP by 2025, aligning with OECD country levels.
  • Kazakhstan plays an important role as a key link in Asia-Europe transit traffic, and the goal is to achieve an annual throughput capacity of 10 million tons by 2027.
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