Following the end of the protests that broke out in Kazakhstan in the first days of 2022, strong reforms began to be implemented in the country led by Mr. Kasım-Cömert Tokayev. In other words, since 2019, when Mr. Tokayev became President, he took the process called “The State Hearing the Voice of the People” to a much higher level.
The President of Kazakhstan, who does not deny the problems in the country, demonstrates a strong will to overcome these problems. In this sense, the interview in Kazakh language that Mr. Tokayev gave to the Habar National Channel on 17 February 2022 contains significant messages about the direction of the reforms in the country.
Kazakhstan Reform Period
In the interview in question, the Kazakh leader stated that the demonstrations started with peaceful attribution and that there was no destruction in the first stage, and revealed that he did not turn his back on the people who took to the streets with well-intentioned demands.
In this context, it is very important that Mr. Tokayev does not equate people who make relatively just demands with terrorists. The reforms carried out in Kazakhstan also reveal that well-intentioned demands are taken into consideration. However, as Mr. Tokayev stated, terrorist-related, specially trained criminal groups that caused the events to spiral out of control provoked actions. As a matter of fact, while Kazakhstan is making reforms that will increase the welfare of its people; It also takes a determined stance at the point of punishing those who are associated with terrorism and takes some measures to prevent similar attacks against the national security of the country.
According to Mr. Tokayev, the events in question are a coup attempt against the security of the country and the integrity of the state. Undoubtedly, New Kazakhstan will emerge from this process much stronger. Because the risk of seizing power by specially trained armed groups has been avoided. Now, the construction process of a strong Kazakhstan has been accelerated. So, it is time for reform.
Saying “The state is for the people” in the continuation of his interview, Mr. Tokayev also revealed the direction of the reforms carried out in his country. As stated by the President of Kazakhstan, the aim of the reforms in the country is to establish an equitable society, eliminate monopolies, ensure economic development, and put political transformation on a reliable basis. Because, according to Tokayev, well-intentioned people who participate in protests and are not terrorized have justifications. The majority of the population is poor. All the wealth of the state is in the hands of a small group. In other words, there is a serious inequality in income distribution. This is the reason why the protests started.
What makes the President of Kazakhstan successful is that he showed great democratic maturity and remarked that the state had learned the necessary lessons from the protests. Moreover, Mr. Tokayev has repeatedly expressed his views on this issue on various platforms, especially in the Kazakhstan Parliament.
Using the term “oligopoly” by stating that a limited number of people dominate the economy, the Kazakh leader said, “This is an obstacle to justice in general and indeed to real competition. If we do not solve this problem, our economy will not develop and the domestic political situation will worsen. Therefore, my main aim is to abolish monopolies in both economy and politics.”
Undoubtedly, Mr. Tokayev’s words mean that the country will focus on integration into the free market economy and serious steps will be taken in terms of democratization in politics. In other words, Mr. Tokayev displays a determined attitude towards liberalization.
Pointing out that not only the state but also citizens need to work hard to create a prosperous society, the Kazakh leader emphasized that the most urgent problem is the need to instill the idea of industriousness into the society and said, “Despite the known negative factors in the country, there are many opportunities for effective work. No one can say more about good and bad than the great Abay. The advice of Abay’s, effort, contemplation, gratitude and compassion is very important.”
Therefore, while the President of Kazakhstan wants to create a prosperous society through reforms in his country; He also knows that everyone has to work hard. This is a requirement for Kazakhstan to reach the place it deserves in the world.
The Aim of New Kazakhstan: Consolidation of Independence and Sovereignty
As it is known, Kazakhstan has passed through difficult and slippery roads and has survived many troubles and has managed to become a respected member of the international community. Kazakhstan, one of the most stable states in Central Asia, has succeeded to overcome the events in January 2022 thanks to the accumulation of its deep-rooted history.
Saying that “During the tragedy, our people showed their unity. We must pass it on to other generations” Mr. Tokayev pointed out that the events in January 2022 strengthened the sense of togetherness in Kazakh society, in line with the phrase “There is good in every evil” used in Turkish. Adapting the feeling of being a great and strong nation and state for Kazakhstan to future generations requires consolidation of independence and sovereignty.
Emphasizing that the country has a bright future, Mr. Tokayev stated that they will reinforce the sovereignty and independence of the state. Stating that the independence of the country is more valuable than anything else, the Kazakh leader said, “It is our common duty to protect it like the apple of our eye.”
In addition, Tokayev also touched upon language policies in the context of independence and sovereignty. In this context, Mr. Tokayev said, “As for our language, we will protect it. It will not be otherwise. Because in the most difficult periods of our history, our language has survived thanks to our foresighted elders and ordinary people. However, we need to regulate the language” he pointed to language reform.
However, the President of Kazakhstan said, “The problem is not a quick transition to the Latin alphabet. This issue should be thoroughly discussed. It should be thoroughly researched. We should not rush unnecessarily” and underlined those fundamental reforms need time. Because the steps are taken in hurry sometimes do not give the expected results.
In fact, it is possible to express this situation for the reform processes in Kazakhstan in general. In the construction process of the new Kazakhstan, Mr. Tokayev shows an example of visionary leadership and is determined to take the necessary steps according to the needs of the country. But it is clear that some issues need time. What matters is the strength of the will for reform. Mr. Tokayev reveals that he is a very consistent leader in this regard.
Balanced Multi-Vector-Directional Foreign Policy and Russia
The foreign policy of Kazakhstan, which is one of the most dynamic states in Central Asia, has a great impact on its success. In fact, the most notable architect of this policy is Mr. Tokayev. Because the President of Kazakhstan, who served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1994-1999 and 2002-2007, contributed greatly to Kazakhstan’s becoming a respected member of the international community during the said period.
Mr. Tokayev, who was known as the only Foreign Minister in the world who spoke Chinese during his tenure and was actually an expert on China, also knows Russia deeply. Ultimately, Kazakhstan’s success in international politics is the result of the balanced policy it has established with these two great powers, which are its neighbors. In addition, Mr. Tokayev has established good relations with Western states due to his work as the United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary-General. This situation has been instrumental in the successful implementation of Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign policy.
In the protests in January 2022, Mr. Tokayev asked for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the security organization of which his country is a member, in a very normal way. As a matter of fact, the support of the CSTO prevented the protests from getting out of control.
In this direction, the President of Kazakhstan, who also made evaluations about Russia in the interview, said, “Russia is Kazakhstan’s neighbor and partner. In such a situation, it is quite normal for them to come to us for help. Not as “saving Kazakhstan”; It should be described as “an action to save our common interests”.
In addition, Mr. Tokayev stated that they are not indebted to Putin and said, “The CSTO unit is not a military unit affiliated to Putin or Russia. The military composition of this organization consists of soldiers of all member states. In addition to Russia; Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan also have military units. Kazakhstan is also a founding and full member of this organization. Therefore, everything is legal and reasonable.” made his comment. In addition, Tokayev said, “As for Russia, this great power has defended its geopolitical interests. Russia needs Kazakhstan’s stability… In general, we don’t owe anyone anything. Kazakhstan is a sovereign state. That’s why our policy is independent.”
Undoubtedly, the statements of the President of Kazakhstan clearly show the importance he attaches to the independence of his country and points out that the multi-vector foreign policy will continue.