Three packages of reforms by President Tokayev
Further measures to develop political system, protect human rights in Kazakhstan
At the same time, the initial two years of the presidency of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, from March 2019 to March 2021, were marked by serious tests of strength for him personally, for the government and for the country itself. The most far-reaching of these tests is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with enormous negative health, economic and social consequences in almost all areas.
In response to this crisis, President Tokayev has taken many measures for the stabilisation of the situation and the further development of the country.
On January 15, 2021, the President presented to the newly elected members of parliament (Mazhilis) a third package of political reforms. His latest initiatives are aimed at further institutional development of the political system of Kazakhstan and enhancing the mechanisms of the protection of human rights.
Their implementation will facilitate strengthening the human rights protection system, expand civic participation, develop parliamentarism and a multi-party system, and further democratise the country.
This third package of political reforms by President Tokayev contains eight proposals:
- Reduce the threshold for political parties to gain seats in the Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) from 7 percent to 5 percent
- After the introduction of elections of rural akims (Mayors) starting in 2021, Kazakhstan will then proceed to the election of district akims
- Introduce the option “against all” in the ballots for all future elections
- Legally formalise the institution of online petitions
- Adopt an additional law on the Commissioner for Human Rights – the ombudsman (the law will streamline the activities of this institution in various areas and sectors)
- Strengthen the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights (including the creation of its regional offices)
- Implementation of the Youth Development Index to evaluate the efficiency of youth policy
- Provide measures to stimulate the activities of charities
The first package of reforms was presented at the meeting of the National Council of Public Trust on December 20, 2019. They were implemented ahead of the parliamentary elections that took place on January 10, 2021.
The reforms include:
- The registration barrier for creating political parties was halved
- A 30 percent quota was introduced for women and youth on electoral party lists
- The institution of parliamentary opposition was formalised and strengthened
- The decriminalisation of Article 130 (defamation) and the humanisation of Article 174 (inciting social discord) of the Criminal Code were initiated
- A new law on assemblies was implemented, which made it easier to organise and participate in rallies
- Kazakhstan joined the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, abolishing the death penalty
The second package of political reforms was put forward by President Tokayev on September 1, 2020, in his address to the people of Kazakhstan. The reforms include:
- The transition to direct elections of rural akims (Mayors) from 2021
- It was instructed to develop a Concept for the Development of Local Self-Government and the Law “On Public Control”
- Creation of a single institution for online petitions
- The need was established to improve legislation to combat torture, human trafficking, and protect citizens (especially children) from cyberbullying
- Tasked to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure
It is intended in Kazakhstan that there is a common thread running through these reforms. Their implementation will facilitate strengthening the system of human rights protection, expand civic participation, develop parliamentarism and a multi-party system, and further democratise the country.
Implementing major political reforms does not happen overnight, it is recognised. This process requires careful consideration. At the same time, as noted by President Tokayev, Kazakhstan should not be satisfied with what has already been achieved. That is why new reforms and measures should continue to be implemented.