Experts on Kazakh President's state-of-the-nation address
17 March 2022 19:39

Experts on Kazakh President's state-of-the-nation address

NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM - Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivered his state-of-the-nation address on March 16 during the joint plenary session of the Kazakh Parliament, vowing to implement sweeping political reforms, two months after the country was shocked by the massive violent unrest. Experts have high hopes for reforms but remain cautious. More about the President’s state-of-the-nation address and experts’ thoughts about it is in the latest analytical article of Kazinform.

Restructuring the political model of Kazakhstan’s development

In his state-of-the-nation address, President Tokayev proposed the transition from a super-presidential form of government to a presidential republic with a strong Parliament, where the key formula of state building will be «a strong President – an influential Parliament – an accountable Government.»

«Such a system will ensure optimal balance of power institutions and contribute to the country’s sustainable development. We are faced with the task of strengthening the role of Parliament, which will be an important factor in the successful implementation of the «listening state» concept,» Tokayev told the plenary session.

Tokayev proposed a proportional-majoritarian model that according to him will «better reflect the interests of voters at both the national and regional levels.»

The members of the Parliament corps of the Mazhilis will be formed according to the following scheme – 70 percent on a proportional basis and 30 percent on a majoritarian basis. In the regions, at the regional level, a mixed system will be introduced at the level of 50/50, and in the districts and cities - a fully majoritarian system.

He also proposed limiting the powers of the president, including legislating the President’s obligation to terminate his or her membership in the party for the period of the term of office, mandatory withdrawal from the party of the chairpersons and members of the Central Election Commission, the Accounts Committee and the Constitutional Council, and a legislative ban on holding positions of political civil servants and managers in the quasi-public sector will be introduced for the close family of the President.

«But an important lesson of the «Tragic January» is that the concentration of power in the hands of the highest official in the state unnecessarily increases the influence of those close to him, as well as of financial and oligarchic groups. And they perceive the state as a personal fiefdom,» said Tokayev.

Tokayev also proposed major initiatives to simplify the registration of parties in a broader effort to ensure political pluralism. The registration threshold will be reduced fourfold, from 20,000 to 5,000 people, the minimum required number of people at regional branches will be reduced threefold, from 600 to 200 individuals, and the minimum number of citizens’ initiative groups to create a party will be reduced by almost a third, from 1,000 to 700 people.

The head of state also called for re-establishing the constitutional court. Currently, there is the Constitutional Council, but the citizens are deprived of the opportunity to appeal directly to it for clarification.

«Experts agree that its activities are more effective in ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Basic Law. Given these circumstances, I propose to establish a Constitutional Court. The Prosecutor General and the Human Rights Ombudsperson should also be granted the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court. I am confident these initiatives will be an important step in building a fair and lawful state, institutionally strengthening the system of checks and balances and protecting the constitutional rights of citizens,» said Tokayev.

What do experts say?

«We had very high expectations from the address,» said Yerkin Tukumov, head of the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies under the President of Kazakhstan. «It gives high hopes that our expectations were not only met but turned out to be bolder than what skeptics had. There was skepticism. The voice of the public was heard.»

The preparation of reforms included people from different areas ranging from government officials to lawyers and representatives of NGOs. «The main message for me was that the President stressed the clear need and timeliness of political reforms. He emphasized that economic reforms are impossible without political reforms,» he said.

«Some people think why we need reforms in such a situation. There is war, on one hand, and economic crisis, on the other. Some say we are barely putting ourselves together after the January events. (...) Whatever the situation, we should not stop on the reforms,» said Talgat Kaliyev, Director of the Institute for Applied Ethnopolitical Research.

«If half of the Maslikhat deputies will be appointed by the majoritarian system and the other half by the proportional system, then tomorrow the people will be able to elect them themselves. And these institutions will be endowed with a certain power. That is to say, there is a change. I think this is a big step towards the creation of new traditions and a new political culture. This is not a political reform that can be solved in one day, this is something long-term,» said the expert.

Well-known political expert Dossym Satpayev said that the announced reforms about the transition from a super-presidential system to a presidential republic with a strong parliament are similar to what President Tokayev said in 2014, when he was Senate Speaker.

«At that time, he said that the transition to the presidential-parliamentary form of government according to the formula strong president - influential parliament - accountable government has begun. It is clear that in 2014 these were just nice words. But now there is no time to bounce back and make beautiful promises, because we can only have a strong parliament if we have new strong and influential parties, which must replace the old parties,» he wrote on his Facebook.

A day since the address, the discussions continue to be heated, but what the public really needs is the actual results and the time will only show whether the words will turn into reality.

Written by Assel Satubaldina

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