President Tokayev exhorts new parliament to take on new political reforms in Kazakhstan

  • 2021-01-31
  • Lucas Baltis

President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has on January 15, 2021, presented to the newly elected members of parliament (Mazhilis) a third package of political reforms largely initiated by him. The new initiatives of the President aim to foster a further institutional development of the political system of Kazakhstan and enhance the mechanisms of the protection of human rights.

President Tokayev thanked the members of the previous convocation for their successful work, noting that in almost five years, 410 laws have been adopted in the Parliament.

“New MPs, maintaining the pace of their former colleagues, should work more productively because we all have large-scale tasks and big things ahead of us. The activities of the renewed Mazhilis coincide with two significant events for our country. We have entered the 30th anniversary of our sacred independence. Also, modern Kazakhstan parliamentarism has reached its quarter-century milestone,” the President emphasised before adding: “Despite the differences in political positions, we face one challenge – to make Kazakhstan a strong country.”

The third package of political reforms includes reducing the threshold for political parties to gain seats in the Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) from 7% to 5%; introducing the option "against all" in the ballots for all future elections; legally formalising the institution of online petitions; adopting an additional law on the Commissioner for Human Rights – the ombudsman; strengthening the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, including the creation of its regional offices; implementing the Youth Development Index to evaluate the efficiency of youth policy; providing measures to stimulate the activities of charities.

But for now, the main challenge for the country is to overcome the consequences of the pandemic, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accentuated.

Once it is handled, the country’s ultimate goal will be democratisation of the country’s political system, proceeding with ensuring a wide spectrum of human rights and joining the ranks of the most developed countries.

“Social and economic development is impossible without proper protection of the rights of citizens. This is an axiom, a truth,” Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev underlined.

Secondly, he said, an effective social policy is a key tool for building a strong and inclusive society.

“Despite significant progress in many indicators of the Human Development Index, Kazakhstan still lags behind the leading countries in this indicator,” Mr Tokayev said. “It is impossible to ensure the well-being of citizens without the progressive growth of the national economy”

Fourth on the priority list comes balanced development of the country in terms of territory and space.

“In particular, transport, energy and digital infrastructure,” Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted.

Nur Otan, Kazakhstan’s ruling party, surprised none by topping preliminary results in Kazakhstan’s January 10 parliamentary elections. According to the Central Election Commission, Nur Otan — which is led by First President Nursultan Nazarbayev — captured 71.1 percent in the election, which the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called “lacked genuine competition.”

Two other parties, both with seats in the previous parliament, cleared the 7 percent threshold to secure seats — Ak Zhol (Bright Path) and the People’s Party (formerly the Communist People’s Party).

The first package of reforms was presented at the meeting of the National Council of Public Trust on December 20, 2019. They were implemented ahead of the parliamentary elections which took place on 10 January, 2021. They included halving the registration barrier for creating political parties; introduction of 30 percent quota for women and youth on electoral party list; formalisation of strengthening the institution of parliamentary opposition; initiation of decriminalisation of Article 130 (defamation) and the humanisation of Article 174 (inciting social discord) of the Criminal Code; preparing a new law on assemblies, which made it easier to organise and participate in rallies;

Besides, Kazakhstan has joined the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, abolishing the death penalty

The second package of political reforms was put forward by President Tokayev on September 1, 2020, in his Address to the people of Kazakhstan. The reforms included transition to direct elections of rural akims (Mayors) from 2021; an instruction to develop a Concept for the Development of Local Self- Government and the Law "On Public Control”; creating a single institution for online petitions; establishing improved legislation to combat torture, human trafficking, and protect citizens (especially children) from cyberbullying; preparation of tentative documentation to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure.