ASTANA — A reset of the political system is underway in Kazakhstan, with cardinal and timely reforms and the formation of an absolutely new type of dialogue between the state and society. All of this has again proven that the incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has been consistent in implementing reforms announced when he took office in 2019.
A qualitatively new round of the political reforms in Kazakhstan came with Tokayev’s Address to the Nation in September, in which he again focused on the need to reset the system. This is not about cosmetic reforms or reform for the sake of reform, but rather a manifestation of Kazakhstan’s desire and readiness to become an epicenter of democratic reforms on the Eurasian continent. In fact, Tokayev has set new rules of the game: open competition, equal conditions, and a fair political struggle. And those rules need to be taken into consideration by neighboring countries.
Against the background of the current political turbulence and uncertainty in the world, the Kazakh leader has chosen the best scenario in this situation — an early presidential election. The next presidential vote in Kazakhstan was to be held in 2024 — the same year as presidential elections in Russia and the US. And in Türkiye, the next presidential vote is scheduled for 2023. All this would lead to increased risk of various provocations, external manipulations, and general tension in the region. Add to this the possibility of prolonged Russia-Ukraine conflict, the sanctions war, the ongoing turbulence in the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Possessing a big diplomatic experience and strategic vision, Tokayev clearly understands that holding the election this autumn would be the best choice, as the political and socio-economic atmosphere in the country is stable and external factors do not play a big role in internal processes.
At the same time, Tokayev sends a clear message that any privatization of the state power is out of the question, and that political forces should always be ready for a fair competition. That is why the power of the president has been reduced to one, seven-year term, which is contrary to the political trends in the region, where the absence of alternation of power is quite commonplace. This type of political behavior may displease certain leaders in Central Asia, but in this case Tokayev is certainly doing without regard to their opinion.
By renewing the presidential and legislative power (the next parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan are scheduled for 2023) Tokayev brings to a logical conclusion all the political reforms and the transit of power that was launched in March 2019. Remarkably, for the first time over the past 30 years all political parties will compete in the parliamentary elections on an equal footing, because Tokayev is non-partisan now, thus putting an end to the term “pro-government party”.
If re-elected (which is of little doubt), Tokayev will start a new term in office with a clean mandate as a non-partisan candidate aimed at building a Just Kazakhstan. In fact, the idea of a Just Kazakhstan means a new concept of social contract by which the state must ensure everyone’s equality before the law and a fair distribution of wealth.