Kazakh President Tokayev promises reform after referendum victory | Political news

More than 75% of voters back plans for democratic reform as President Tokayev aims to step out of the shadow of his predecessor and former mentor Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has vowed to follow through on plans to push through democratic reforms in Kazakhstan, after a clear majority of voters approved constitutional amendments he tabled in a referendum.

The Central Election Commission said on Monday that 77.18% of votes were in favor of the amendments, which decentralize decision-making in the oil-rich country and strip former President Nursultan Nazarbayev of his status as a “national leader”. The participation rate was 68.06%.

“We have shown that we are united in building the new, just Kazakhstan,” Tokayev said in a speech on Monday.

“We need to review the legislation that allowed a small group of people to concentrate the country’s economic resources in their hands and enjoy preferential status.

Tokayev proposed the reform package after he suppressed a coup attempt amid deadly unrest in January and removed his 81-year-old former boss Nazarbayev and his relatives from important public sector posts.

Prior to the January crisis, Tokayev was widely seen as reigning in the shadow of Nazarbayev and his very wealthy relatives.

Even after stepping down as president, Nazarbayev retained the constitutional title of “elbasy” or “head of the nation” – a role that allowed him to influence policy-making regardless of his official position. .

The new constitution will exclude this status.

The official turnout was estimated at just over 68% [Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters]

As the new constitution does not recognize this status, “we can confidently say that the era of ‘Elbasy’ is over,” political analyst Gaziz Abishev told AFP news agency.

Another amendment bars those close to the president from holding government positions – a clear nod to the influence of Nazarbayev’s family and in-laws, who lost important positions as a result of the violent street protests in early January.

The drive for a “New Kazakhstan” in the wake of the violence came from the man Nazarbayev chose to replace him as president in 2019, Tokayev.

Tokayev described the snap referendum as a change from the “super-presidential” regime.

January’s bloodshed – which stemmed from peaceful protests against a rise in petrol prices – left more than 230 people dead and prompted authorities to call in troops from a security bloc led by the Russia.

Tokayev blamed the violence on “terrorists” seeking to seize power and gave “shoot to kill” orders to Kazakh troops.

But the arrest for treason of a Nazarbayev ally who was national security chief at the time has spurred speculation that a leadership struggle was at the heart of the violence.

The former and current president are allies from neighboring Russia, and the arrival of more than 2,000 peacekeepers from a Moscow-led security bloc has strengthened Tokayev’s control over the situation in January.

The Kremlin claimed that the intervention requested by Tokayev did not extend to any political settlement, which was “Kazakhstan’s internal affair”.

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