16.05.2022, 15:23
A+ Analytics

Steps towards real democracy or an attempt to gain support before the next elections?

Kazakhstan has been going through difficult times since the beginning of this year. On the one hand, the population demands to improve the socio-economic situation of ordinary citizens, on the other hand, the country's leadership understands that this must be done simultaneously with democratic reforms. Without democratic reforms in the country, it is almost impossible to control the corruption that plagued the entire state system in previous years. Corruption is choking the economy, and threatens to be a major destabilizing factor in a country that has experienced a recent outbreak of violence.

Фотография с открытых источников

To this end, the leadership of Kazakhstan decided to take a decisive step, namely to make major changes to the Constitution in order to destroy the authoritarian nature of the political system. 56 amendments will be introduced to the Basic Law of the country, which are designed to dismantle the entire vertical of power. Preparations for the referendum are taking place in a short time, plus in combination with unusual symbolic events around the country.

If the result is positive, Kazakhstan should move from a “super-presidential” form of government to a presidential one with a relatively independent parliament.
- direct relatives of the president will be prohibited from holding high government positions, including in state-owned companies;
- Citizens will be able to independently apply to the restored Constitutional Court;
- Citizens will be able to elect as deputies of parliament not only parties, but also specific individuals according to the restored majoritarian system of elections;
- the deputies appointed by the President in the Senate will be reduced, and the quota of the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan in the Mazhilis (analogous to the Congress) will be abolished;
- for the first time, citizens will be able to change the current deputies of the Majilis, elected by the majority system;
- The special role and privileges of Elbasy (as the first president of the country N. Nazarbayev is called in Kazakhstan) will be abolished from the Constitution, and will be decided at the level of laws;

This important event in terms of its status and slogans was supposed to unite the population and raise a wave of public discussion and discussion on the topic of new amendments, the role of the President, Elbasy, deputies, courts in the "New Kazakhstan". But a simple counter of the number of comments, news views shows that the everyday problem of preferential loans for the purchase of cars or news about the absence of those same cars in car dealerships is many times higher than the topics of a referendum and discussions of amendments to the Constitution. A possible reason for this may be both the traditional apathy and the established distrust of the population in the authorities, formed over the previous thirty years of independence.

However, one cannot fail to notice that the Kazakh political sphere and society are going through an unusual stage of accelerated changes that were undertaken by the President of Kazakhstan, K. Tokayev. In a short period, we have witnessed many events that were previously difficult to imagine or predict. The most striking and symbolic were the exit of the President of the country from the Nur Otan party and the renaming of this pro-government party. It is impossible not to recall the long-discussed topic of self-government in the country's villages and the implementation of those very direct elections of akims (leaders) of rural districts, which was promised back in 2000 during the Message of the President of the country to the people of Kazakhstan "Towards a free society".

Another symbolic decision was also the inadmissibility of the closest relatives of the president to hold high positions as officials and work in parastatal companies. The accelerated and debatable renaming of the city of Kapchagay into "Kunaev" also shows the mood and position of the Head of the country in relation to the future and the situation in Kazakhstan.

It is known that the current referendum of 2022 is not the first, and the previous one was already back in 1995 and dealt with two issues: the adoption of a new Constitution, which turned the country into a “super” presidential republic, as well as the extension of the powers of N. Nazarbayev, which is now in modern terms can be understood as a "zeroing" of the previous terms of government as head of the country. It is obvious that symbolically and legally, the principles of “super-presidential” government introduced by referendum should be also symbolically and legally abolished, at the same highest level of approval of the population through a referendum. It can be expected that the start for the "Second Republic" will also begin with the turnout and support of more than 90% of the population of Kazakhstan, just like the last time in 1995.

The referendum in Kazakhstan is taking place under unusual and nervous conditions, with Russia and Ukraine also holding referendums on the future of the regions of Ukraine, the entry of South Ossetia into Russia. In such circumstances, the very word "referendum" becomes ambiguous, because, thanks to the events in neighboring countries, it acquires a new color and symbolism.

However, the most difficult and difficult issue for the majority of citizens is the need for this very referendum in Kazakhstan, when quite recently most of the fateful decisions of officials are made within the parliament or by the decision of the presidential administration. It can be assumed that the true goals and objectives of the referendum are dictated not only by internal processes, but also by the external situation around Kazakhstan.

The modern example of states shows that in order to ensure its stability and security, as well as to rally the population, the whole society against the aggressor, the country needs not just a president elected by the majority, but a legitimate and authoritative leader. Kazakhstan also faces numerous internal and external challenges, the difficult tasks of overcoming past mistakes, carrying out difficult economic and pension reforms, which require the leader of the nation, who must enlist the support of society, the elite, political parties. An example of instability in neighboring countries shows that for the effectiveness of the ongoing reforms, the leader of the nation must have a clear, visible credibility and support among the general population, and especially in the regions.

Without a doubt, the population of Kazakhstan, which is still experiencing the post-traumatic shock of the “Bloody January” events, needs a unifying event. The same January showed not only the presence of a serious demand for political reforms, but also the demand for decisive action from the new leadership regarding the assessment of the actions and legacy of Elbasy and his associates. Positive votes of the population through a referendum, as a direct vote of the population, will also help K. Tokayev to strengthen his symbolic status as the leader of the nation, somewhat "tarnished" after the "January tragedy" and the invitation of the CSTO troops (the Russian analogue of NATO) to peaceful Kazakhstan. It is also impossible not to recall the discussion process and the results of the 2019 elections, which also did not show the traditional for Kazakhstan more than 90% of the approval votes of the population.

In summary, it can be confirmed that the referendum is taking place in a difficult period in the history of modern Kazakhstan. The last referendum in 1995 raised a high bar for the start of past reforms, which requires a similar high approval of the population for new transformations for the "Second Republic".

It is also obvious that the events of January had a negative impact on the image of the government, which needs a new kind of support from the population, already through a referendum. A possible 90% or more votes “for” the new Constitution will be able to give the authorities confidence in continuing the initiated reforms, which are so necessary for Kazakhstan at this difficult moment of internal and external challenges in the history of the country and society.