New Kazakhstan Continues Political Modernization

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New York, Brussels, Astana (18/1 – 60).

After facing the most challenging year in 2022, Kazakhstan continues its political modernization. Under the second term of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev who has been reelected in November, Central Asia’s richest country will enjoy more democracy in 2023. This year will be the moment for President Tokayev to prove his vows to step up changes for the ’New Kazakhstan’.

End of the Oligarch

As the world witnessed, in January 2022, Kazakhstan was ripped apart by the nationwide protest that led to the most violent unrest in the country’s modern history. 238 people dead and thousands of protesters were arrested. The ‘Bloody January’ rallies were not merely sparked by high fuel prices, the protesters also highlighted political issues. Especially regarding former president Nursultan Nazarbayev who withstand his more-than-30-year powerful authority after his resignation.

The upheaval made Tokayev strip Nazarbayev from the role of head of Kazakh’s Security Council. Tokayev, who was ‘handpicked’ by Nazarbayev himself in 2019, also removed his predecessor’s loyalists and removed protections for the Nazarbayev family. In aftermath of ‘Bloody January’, Tokayev outlined large-scale economic and political reform.

“The era of oligarchic capitalism is coming to an end in Kazakhstan. The era of the state’s social responsibility towards its citizens is coming,” Tokayev said in October during his visit to Karaganda province.

Building a new economy far from Nazarbayev’s influences, Kazakhstan promises to reduce participation of the state as well as administration barriers. It is meant to solve many complaints by businesses against authorities such as the anti-corruption service and the police.

Challenging Laws

To ensure the implementation of his reform populist agenda in the political sector, Tokayev also appointed a new government. In addition to Alikhan Smailov as the new Prime Minister, young progressive figures rose to the highest ranks of the cabinet. For example, Zulfiya Suleimenova as the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, and Askhat Oralov as the Minister of Culture and Sports. Both are 32 years old.

This year, the former Soviet country will also directly elect heads of administrations in hundreds of districts and cities. The statement was revealed by Erlan Karin, Kazakh’s State Counselor. “The renewal of the corps of rural akims (heads of administrations). It is planned to hold direct elections of more than 350 mayors of villages, towns, and rural districts. These elections will cover more than a thousand rural settlements,” Karin said

Another proof is Kazakh’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has completed registration stages for 66 regional candidates to participate in Senate Election that took place on 14 January. The election uses a new system and rules to determine 20 deputy seats in the highest representative body of the Republic exercising legislative power.

Chairperson of Senate Maulen Ashimbayev says that the election will bring well-qualified lawyers to the Senate to overcome challenging state legislation. “We have many challenging law, the most recent bankruptcy law is the most complicated. We’ll see how it turns out. Still, I believe there will be many questions, and we will learn what the flaws are. As a result, strong lawyers are required to comprehend such legislation,” Ashimbayev explained.

Packed with domestic fundamental changes agenda, it is worth seeing how President Tokayev runs his administration to achieve ‘New Kazakhstan. Questions remain, what is the price of the reform? And how it will affect Kazakh’s diplomatic relations with other countries, especially the two giant neighbors, China and Russia?