The following article was contributed by the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Seoul for publication by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985.—Ed.
Kazakhstan’s President announces on March 16 historic political reforms for democratization through transformation of power to the government and parliament, for a new Kazakhstan.
President Tokayev said, “The course of building a New Kazakhstan is based on the need to ensure fair and free political competition. Political transformation is aimed at creating fair and just ‘rules of the game’, eliminating favouritism and monopolies in all spheres of life. We have a clear vision of the future and the contours of New Kazakhstan - an effective state with a strong civil society".
President Tokayev calls for the final abolition of the death penalty to be excluded from the constitution. The president pledged efforts to strengthen sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Kazakhstan and to work for the prosperity now, not in the future. The president said now is the time to build the unity in the community, acknowledging that the January 2022 events have damaged Kazakhstan international reputation. President Tokayev announced 30 amendment to the constitution are required to implement his proposed reforms and 20 further laws need to be adopted before the end of 2022. This major legislative work will design and build a new Kazakhstan under president Tokayev’s leadership.
Kazakhstan’s President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, today (Wednesday), delivered a historic State of the Union address, in which he unveiled an extensive list of far-reaching reforms to be initiated throughout Kazakhstan’s political establishment and civil society.
The Presidential Program of Reforms symbolizes the beginning of a new era in the country's political development, with an emphasis on promoting democratization, accountability, and sustainability in the management of the state. With the aim of transitioning the country from a super-presidential form of government to a presidential republic with a strong parliament, the Program includes a fundamental review of key institutions of the State, including the office and powers of the President, the functioning of the Parliament and local self-government, as well as the political party, electoral, judicial, and law enforcement systems.
The Presidential Program of Reforms have been formulated following consultations with expert opinions and civil society thought leaders, including academics, and public figures. Recommendations were also taken from Members of Parliament, the Constitutional Council, the Central Election Commission, and the Supreme Court. The reforms are a direct continuation of previous reforms announced by the President, but were accelerated by the tragic events that took place in the country in January which are now under investigation.
Key reforms include: Presidential political party involvement: The President will be legally obligated to terminate his/her membership in a political party for the duration of his/her term of office.
Presidential powers in local government: The President will no longer have authority to remove local authority mayors.
Parliamentary oversight of appointments: Appointments by the President, the Chairman of the (newly established) Constitutional Court, and the Chairperson of the Supreme Judicial Council require the consent of the Senate of the Parliament.
Limits on the Civil Service: Civil servants and political officials will be limited to the number of positions they can hold simultaneously to avoid the over-concentration of power.
Electoral and Legislative Reform: The Lower House of Parliament, the Majilis, will be reformed to include a makeup 70-30 ratio of national to regional representatives. Reforms will also be set out to transfer the Central Election Commission to an independent professional management, and the lowering of the registration threshold for political parties from 20,000 to 5,000 members. In addition, the Majilis will have increased legislative authority.
In addition, election campaigns will be intensified on social media, and there will be limits set on donations to electoral campaigns in order to prevent the influence of individuals and strengthening the principle of non-foreign interference in the electoral process – these measures will ensure the independence and transparency of the country’s electoral system.
Law Enforcement Reforms: With a renewed focus on the rights of the citizen in judicial process and issues of law enforcement, there will be a widespread investigation of accusations related to torture and mistreatment. The investigation will be carried out by the Office of the Prosecutor General.
Final abolition of the death penalty to be excluded from the constitution.
Judicial Reforms and the Constitutional Court: There will be a Constitutional Court established to ensure constitutional compliance, with the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court to be granted to the Prosecutor General and Commissioner for Human Rights. The Chair of the Constitutional Court will be appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate of the Parliament.
In addition, key sessions of the Supreme Judicial Council will be broadcast online, and there will be greater transparency of the procedure for selecting judges. There will be the introduction of trial by jury in a wider range of cases.
Civil Society and Civil Rights: The status of the Commissioner for Human Rights will be strengthened at the level of the Constitution and the Constitutional Law, and the role of public councils will be strengthened, and the format of their work will be radically renewed.
Freedom of the Press: The Presidential Program of Reforms noted the importance of the media’s role in raising pressing issues. Laws pertaining to mass media will be reviewed accordingly to ensure greater competition in the media.
These are some key quotes from President Tokayev’s speech today:
“Political transformation is aimed at creating fair and just ‘rules of the game’, eliminating favouritism and monopolies in all spheres of life".
“I firmly believe that our country still needs fundamental reforms".
"The people do not need abstract ideas and promises, but tangible changes for the better".
"We need to root out all artificial monopolies, both in the economy and in politics".
"The management system that focused on the over-concentration of powers has already lost its effectiveness."
"We have a clear vision of the future and the contours of New Kazakhstan - an effective state with a strong civil society".
"Monopoly in politics inevitably leads to various social diseases and degradation of the state".
*“Nepotism, in whatever country it is, inevitably leads to negative personnel selection and becomes a fertile ground for corruption to flourish".*
"The Lower House of Parliament should reflect the entire electoral landscape of the country without giving anyone artificial preferences".
"The main goal of political modernisation is to increase the participation of citizens in state management".
"The course of building a New Kazakhstan is based on the need to ensure fair and free political competition".
"Further democratic transformation is impossible without independent and responsible media".
"The foundation of the New Kazakhstan should be based on a harmonious combination of political and economic reforms".
"The course of building a New Kazakhstan is aimed at changing the country's development paradigm".