August 11, 2022


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Is Actual Change Coming? Kazakhs Skeptical About Vote To Take away ‘ Nazarbaev ‘ Advantages From Structure

Kazakhstan is holding a referendum to amend the nation’s structure amid criticism the proposed modifications wouldn’t reform the character of the authoritarian regime regardless of authorities makes an attempt to current the overhaul as bringing democratic reforms.

Kazakh activists have known as on President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev to postpone the June 5 plebiscite, saying folks weren’t given sufficient time to review the 56 proposed modifications they’ll vote on.

Others mentioned the referendum needs to be canceled altogether and the cash wanted for the vote spent on the poor.

Toqaev has mentioned the amendments pave the way in which for Kazakhstan to shift from a “super-presidential type of authorities to a presidential republic with a powerful parliament.”

However the proposed modifications don’t take away any vital energy that the president’s workplace at present holds.

A banner on a bridge in Almaty reads, "Referendum. Constitution 2022." Nazarbaev
A banner on a bridge in Almaty reads, “Referendum. Structure 2022.”

The modifications would bar the nation’s president from being a member of a political occasion whereas holding workplace. Maybe much more importantly, relations of the president wouldn’t be allowed to carry any key positions within the public sector.

That measure is seen as an try to forestall the unimaginable depth of nepotism that occurred underneath former President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

The variety of Senate members appointed by the president could be decreased from the present 15 to 10.

However the president would keep the suitable to nominate the prime minister, the cupboard members, the prosecutor-general, the safety chief, the heads of the nationwide financial institution, and the central election fee together with a number of different key posts.

The chief govt would additionally retain the facility to nominate provincial governors and the mayors of cities, together with the capital, regardless of widespread calls from public activists for governors and mayors to be elected by voters.

A woman votes during Kazakhstan's parliamentary election in Nur-Sultan on January 10, 2021.
A lady votes throughout Kazakhstan’s parliamentary election in Nur-Sultan on January 10, 2021.

The suitable to nominate highly effective regional governors is seen as an essential political software for the president as governors can be utilized to swing an election by controlling the voting course of within the authoritarian nation the place worldwide observers say free and truthful elections usually are not held.

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The one who stands to lose essentially the most if the referendum is authorized is Nazarbaev, who led Kazakhstan from 1990 till 2019 and loved vital political sway as ex-president till the bloody nationwide unrest in January that left no less than 238 folks useless.

The revised structure removes all references to Nazarbaev as “Elbasy” (chief of the nation) which might cement his fall from grace that started with calls for by anti-government protesters to finish his household’s grip on the nation’s politics and riches.

A lot of Nazarbaev’s rich influential cronies have been faraway from essential posts and a few have been imprisoned following the January rebellion.

Nazarbaev, 81, and his shut relations would additionally lose their lifelong immunity from prosecution if the referendum is authorized.

Nazarbaev handpicked Toqaev to be his successor after he resigned in 2019. The referendum is seen as an try by Toqaev, 69, to formalize Nazarbaev’s “retirement” and guarantee his departure from the political scene.

No Time For Debates

The constitutional overhaul would cut back the quantity or lawmakers within the Mazhilis, or decrease home of parliament, to 98 from the present 107 members.

The Senate would additionally lose its energy to make new legal guidelines however would vote on payments handed by the Mazhilis and in addition to vote to substantiate nominations for prosecutor-general, safety chief, and different key positions submitted by the president.

Activists and political specialists say the folks weren’t given sufficient time to review the proposed modifications, because the package deal of reforms was solely made public on Could 5 — only a month earlier than the vote.

The Mazhilis, or lower house of parliament, building in Nur-Sultan.
The Mazhilis, or decrease home of parliament, constructing in Nur-Sultan.

Even some pro-government specialists have acknowledged that lots of the proposed modifications are too sophisticated even for specialists to know.

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The voters will reply with a easy “sure” or “no” to the one query on the poll asking them whether or not they agree with the proposed amendments.

“The authorities haven’t defined to folks precisely what modifications could be made to the structure. There have been no explanations in any respect on what the amendments imply, and folks don’t fairly perceive what they’re being requested to vote for,” activist Zhumamurat Shamshi informed RFE/RL.

Activists in Almaty known as on Toqaev to postpone the referendum for no less than three months to permit time for debate and dialogue.

Others say the vote needs to be scrapped and the $38 million allotted for the referendum spent for tasks like public housing or to extend social safety advantages.

Esengazy Kuandyk, a political activist in Almaty, criticized the proposed modifications as “empty phrases” that don’t characterize “something concrete.”

“If the authorities actually need to transfer away from a super-presidency…they have to disperse the present Mazhilis that was elected in [rigged] elections. That might have been an actual political reform. What we’re getting now are empty phrases,” he mentioned.

Orynbasar Zhanibekov, an activist in Nur-Sultan, informed RFE/RL that he doesn’t anticipate any actual political modifications from Toqaev, a protege of Nazarbaev.

“Earlier than being handpicked for the presidency, Toqaev had labored in high authorities jobs for 20 years. What reforms did he obtain throughout all of these years? None! Equally, there are not any reforms in [this referendum] both,” Zhanibekov informed RFE/RL.

State-backed pollsters say greater than 75 % of respondents in latest polls supported the proposed reforms and that just about 70 % mentioned they’ll vote within the referendum.

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