Tokayev, the second president of the Republic of Kazakhstan, has announced his intention to take the lead in the political and legal reform of the country after the “January Incident”. It has accelerated in recent days.
Tokayev announced his resignation of the party chairman of Aaranat
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On April 26, Tokayev announced his resignation of the party chairman of the ruling party of “Aaranat”. The new chairman is Yerlan Koshanov, the speaker of the lower house of the Kazakh parliament. At this point, it was only three months since Tokayev was elected chairman of the ruling party at its 21st extraordinary congress on January 28.
At that time, Kazakhstan’s first president Nazarbayev, who was questioned in the January incident, finally handed over the chairmanship of the ruling party, which he had been holding since he left the presidency, and took the initiative to nominate Tokayev to take over. But after taking over the party reins, Tokayev soon announced his intention to keep the party chairmanship separate from that of the country’s leader in order to advance his political reform process.
Yerlan Koshanov became the new chairman of Kazakhstan’s ruling party
On April 27, Yerlan Koshanov, who became the new chairman of Kazakhstan’s ruling party under Tokayev’s arrangement, said that new constitutional amendments are under consideration based on Tokayev’s reform program, which he delivered in his state of the nation address in March. Once the new constitutional amendments are adopted by the parliament, many of the legal provisions on immunity and special treatment that previously guaranteed the first president Nazarbayev the status of “leader of the nation” (Elbasy) will no longer be valid.
On April 22, Tokayev submitted his proposed draft constitutional amendments to the parliament.
On April 28, Tokaev appointed two new deputy chairmen of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, which is considered another step in the process of political transition and reform in the country.
On April 29, Tokaev proposed that Kazakhstan hold a referendum on constitutional amendments, saying that this symbolizes that Kazakhstan is “moving towards a new form of interaction between the state and the people”.
The State Secretary of Kazakhstan, Yerlan Kalin, said that the holding of a referendum is a necessary process to completely break away from the old model and open a new political system. Kalin was one of the first senior officials to be appointed to power during the January 5 riots. On the other hand, most members of the Nazarbayev family and close associates have continued to face multiple investigations during the past half month.
On April 15, Karim Massimov, the former chairman of Kazakhstan’s National Security Council and the first person arrested during the January riots, was placed on Kazakhstan’s most wanted list on corruption charges. On April 28, the father-in-law of Nazarbayev’s youngest daughter, Alia, was accused of defrauding the country for $1.3 million.
On April 30, the local government of Almaty launched an investigation into irregularities at a market in the city. The market is believed to be linked to Nazarbayev’s brother, Borat Nazarbayev. This follows the results of a financial audit on April 15, which said that the market had committed tax evasion of 110,000 Kazakhstan tenge. Nazarbayev’s brother, Borat Nazarbayev, is considered to be the actual owner of the market.
President Tokayev announced withdrawal from party operations
Tokayev announced his withdrawal from the party at the party’s extraordinary congress on April 26, along with his resignation as chairman of Amarnat. He said, “As of today, I decided to terminate my powers as party chairman and quit the party. This step is symbolic. I thank everyone for their trust and support in the presidential election. I also thank them for entrusting me with the management of the party at a critical time.” He also said that future political reforms will activate more effective political competition in Kazakhstan. “The liberalization of political parties and electoral legislation will strengthen the role of society in decision-making at all levels of government. The competition for votes will become more intense. There is no doubt that the dynamics and content of the political process itself will change. In view of this, it is likely that new political parties will emerge in Kazakhstan, and the existing ones will begin to review and reorganize their activities in line with current trends and citizen demands.”
Yerlan Koshanov became the new party chairman of the Amanat party at the meeting. He stated that the current series of personnel changes will create more political competition in Kazakhstan and that “we must fight for parliamentary seats on an equal footing with other parties. The ruling party is ready for the upcoming political competition.” Koshanov also refused to hold early parliamentary elections and gave a negative answer to the question of whether he had ambitions to run for the presidency.
After Tokayev’s resignation, Kazakh State Secretary Yerlan Kalin stated that “the Amarnat party will remain the core of consolidating supporters of the presidential reform process.” At the same extraordinary congress, the “Amarnat” party also formally merged with the smaller pro-government party “Adar”. This follows the party’s decision, announced in March, to remain united with the ruling party amid “great external and internal risks” and “structural changes in the country.
“The predecessor of the Amarnat party, the Nur Otan party, was founded in 1999 on the initiative of Nazarbayev and was originally called Otan, or “Fatherland,” before being renamed Nur Otan, meaning “Light of the Fatherland,” by resolution in 2006. It was renamed “Nur Otan”, meaning “Light of the Fatherland”, by a resolution in 2006, and has been the ruling party in Kazakhstan since its establishment.
Nazarbayev’s family withdrew from politics and business in large numbers
Nazarbayev served as the party’s chairman from 1999 until January 2022. Although he announced at the party’s congress in November 2021 that he would resign as party chairman and hand over the reins to current President Tokayev, the transfer was finally completed only on January 28, 2022. By then, Tokayev had already settled the “January events” in the country.
In March 2022, the party passed a resolution to change the name from “Nur Otan” to “Amarnat,” diluting the continuity of the party and the Nazarbayev era. The “January incident” was preceded by criticism of the ruling party in Kazakhstan, and after the “January incident” there was even a mass withdrawal from the party in some regions. The party has long held a majority of seats in Kazakhstan’s parliament. In addition to the long-time chairman Nazarbayev, the party committee also includes Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter Dalija and a number of senior officials who are considered to be highly trusted by him.
Tokayev, who took over as party chairman on Jan. 28, has said he considers his chairmanship a temporary transitional measure because the president should distance himself from the political organization.
On March 16, Tokayev said he would resign as party chairman and propose legislation to end the possibility of the country’s president becoming involved in party activities during his term in office. He said, “This provision will increase political competition and provide equal conditions for the development of parties.” At the same time, he proposed that the heads of local administrations and their deputies should be prohibited by law from serving in party branches. He also spoke about the need to simplify the procedures for the registration of political parties in Kazakhstan and lower the threshold for their establishment.
The pace of Kazakhstan constitutional amendments starts
On April 22, the Kazakhstan government held a special session on the review and amendment of the Constitution, at which Tokaev said, “I believe that the constitutional amendments will open a new chapter in the history of Kazakhstan’s independence. This is an important milestone in the construction of the new Kazakhstan.” At the same time, he said, “In essence, they mean the transition to a completely new model of formation and interaction of governmental institutions in Kazakhstan, the taking root of a new political culture. For a clearer and more concise understanding, I call this model, this process, the Second Republic. According to the new paradigm, the powers of the president will be reduced, the role of the parliament will be significantly strengthened, the participation of citizens will be significantly expanded, and the area of human rights will be systematically strengthened.” The draft bill was officially accepted by the Kazakh Constitutional Council on April 25.
Tokayev presented a plan for Kazakhstan’s transformation in his presidential state of the nation address on March 16 this year, announcing “radical reforms” of key state institutions such as the presidential administration, parliament, local administrations, and the judicial and law enforcement systems. At the time, Tokayev said that political power in Kazakhstan will be rebalanced and that the transition from a “super-presidential” form of government to a “presidential republic with a strong parliament” is expected.
The draft amendments to the Constitution, submitted on April 22, are seen as a concrete implementation of this plan of political reform and transformation of the country. According to the text of the draft published by the government of Kazakhstan, the “Second Republic” will introduce the spirit of state ownership of land and its resources, the independence of individual applications to the Constitutional Court, the abolition of the death penalty, the strengthening of the role of Parliament in the political system of the country.
The bill further restricts the powers of the President, in addition, the President himself is prohibited from participating in the activities of political parties, and the President’s relatives are also prohibited from holding senior government positions.
On April 29, Tokayev proposed to hold a referendum on constitutional amendments. He said, “The referendum will allow every citizen to participate directly in deciding the fate of the country and will strengthen our process of achieving full democratization and building a new Kazakhstan.”
Tokayev said in his speech that without the participation of all citizens in the common cause, neither the state apparatus nor any political decisions, business and economic instruments will be able to lead Kazakhstan to the goal of a national renaissance. And to build a new Kazakhstan, it is necessary to completely transform the system of personal and social values. In this regard, Koshanov stated that, considering the scale of the upcoming changes, “it is very important that the entire Kazakh society is involved from the very beginning.”