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The Early Presidential Election: The New Phase of Strong Reforms in Kazakhstan

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Mr. Qasim-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, proposed early presidential elections in the autumn in his statement on September 1, 2022. The proposal draws attention as a development that confirms that the “New Kazakhstan” construction process, carried out under the leadership of Mr. Tokayev, continues with strong reforms, beyond being an ordinary election call.

As it is known, Mr. Tokayev managed the “Tragic January Incidents” that broke out in Kazakhstan in the first days of 2022 with great democratic maturity and while demonstrating a determined will in the fight against terrorism. On the other hand, it has accelerated the democratization and liberalization processes by taking into account the legitimate demands of the people. In this context, Kazakhstan sets an example for the region with its reforms and shines like a rising star in the middle of the “Great Steppe.”

It can be said that the main issue that Mr. Tokayev focused on after the “Tragic January Events” was the strengthening of relations between the center and the periphery. This essentially means strengthening the state-nation unity. In line with this aim, Mr. Tokayev has taken steps to eliminate the injustice in income distribution in order to present a prosperous future to the Kazakh people.

In this context, it can be said that one of the most important priorities of Kazakhstan is to transform the multi-vector/directional diplomacy understanding based on balance, which serves to make its sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national security sustainable, into economic income. In other words, Mr. Tokayev plans to have a constructive and peaceful foreign policy understanding that serves regional and global peace, resulting in attracting investment to the country.  This will increase the employment rate in Kazakhstan and naturally reduce inflation.

At this point, it can be stated that the reforms carried out in the direction of democratization are of great importance both in order to be the most important prerequisite for a safe market environment for investors and to strengthen the state-nation unity in Kazakhstan. For this reason, Mr. Tokayev, in his address to the nation on March 16, 2022, announced that steps would be taken such as reducing the powers of the President, modernizing the electoral system, improving the representation capacity of the opposition, making reforms in the field of human rights, and reshaping the administrative and regional structures of the country.[1]

As it can be understood, Mr. Tokayev revealed the road map to increase social harmony on March 16, 2022. The President of Kazakhstan has also demonstrated his sincerity regarding reforms by resigning from his position as the Chairman of the ruling Amanat Party on April 26, 2022. While explaining this decision, “I find it right that the President does not prefer any party. In other words, he should be politically neutral.”.[2] The Kazakh leader also ensured that important constitutional reforms were made on the occasion of the referendum held on June 5, 2022. As a matter of fact, with the constitutional referendum, which is one of the most important steps in the construction process of New Kazakhstan, 56 amendments were made to 33 articles of the constitution and democracy was strengthened.[3]

However, not rejecting Mr. Tokayev’s accumulation of the past, it is possible to state that it acts in line with the ideal of creating a modern state with its approach that prepares for the dynamism of the future. As a matter of fact, the support of the Kazakh people in the constitutional referendum has also revealed that there is a serious consensus between the state and the nation in terms of strengthening the center-periphery relations.

From the first day he became the President, “The State is for the Nation” understanding within the framework of the “State Hearing the Voice of the People” model is applied. Acting with a new motto, Mr. Tokayev opened the door to a new breakthrough in terms of democratization processes in the country with his proposal for an early presidential election on September 1, 2022. In order to understand this situation, it is necessary to draw attention to the following expressions used by Tokayev:[4]

“I propose that early presidential elections be held this autumn… For me, the interests of the state are paramount. For this reason, I am ready to participate in the new presidential elections by shortening my presidential mandate… I propose limiting the presidential mandate to a period of 7 years, however, without a re-election.”

At the first stage, the Kazakh leader, who took a step that would integrate the Kazakh people with an impartial presidential move and not cause political polarization, suggested that the President’s term of office be limited to seven years at this point, showing his belief in democratization. Therefore, Mr. Tokayev seems determined to have his name written in the history of the democratization of Kazakhstan. In this regard, the fact that he emphasized that the interests of the state were more important than anything else during his speeches also indicated that the President of Kazakhstan did not act like an ordinary politician; it reveals that he was a great statesman who struggled to create a prosperous future for the Kazakh people. It is possible to understand this situation from the following words of Tokayev:[5]

“First of all, 7 years is enough time to implement any ambitious program. On the other hand, limiting the presidency to a single term will allow the President to focus on solving the strategic tasks of national development to the maximum extent.”

The statement above by the Kazakh leader is important in two respects. First, it states that a seven-year period is sufficient for an ambitious political program. This means that the President will only serve one term, thus ensuring continuity in the renewal and modernization processes. In other words, Mr. Tokayev aims to preserve the dynamism in the state administration and the excitement of presenting new achievements to the public. Of course, it can be said that this will mean a great democratic revolution, as it will normalize the election for change of leadership.

Secondly, Mr. Tokayev thinks that the President should focus on strategic tasks. This is a non-partisan identity; that is, it points to a country that will be ruled by powerful statesmen. Of course, the most important outcomes will be the establishment of a merit-based order and the redirection of the country’s energy away from pointless political debates.

In addition to all these, the President of Kazakhstan’s call for early elections is a harbinger of the continuation of the reform process in the country. Because the Kazakh leader reminded that all the political institutions of the state will be renewed in 2023, by saying “Key state institutions need to be comprehensively updated within the scope of the new strategy.”[6] This means that the reforms will continue.

In fact, it can be said that Mr. Tokayev’s desire is to confront the problems in the country and to find solutions to these issues. As a matter of fact, the President of Kazakhstan said, “It is extremely important to protect the reform process and to solve all political problems without putting them on the shelf.”[7] He clearly demonstrated this approach. This can be interpreted as the Kazakh state’s determination to overcome many of the country’s problems.

As a result, Kazakhstan spent the first thirty years of its independence working to ensure the sustainability of its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. The establishment phase of an independent Kazakhstan has concluded, and the country’s ascent has begun. This brings along modernization processes and democratization breakthroughs. In this sense, Mr. Tokayev successfully carries out the New Kazakhstan construction process and implements strong reforms prepared for this purpose. The main priority of the reforms is to create a prosperous future for the Kazakh people and, in this context, to strengthen the center-periphery relationship in the country. The steps taken by Mr. Tokayev also serve this purpose. The new phase of these reforms is the regulation of the President’s term of office to be limited to seven years and the early presidential election. This shows that Mr. Tokayev is a great statesman who puts the interests of the country far above his own expectations. These reforms, on the other hand, do not only make New Kazakhstan a developing country; at the same time, it is a role model for the entire region.


[1] Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, “Yeni Kazakistan: Yenilenme ve Modernizasyon Yolu”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/yeni-kazakistan-yenilenme-ve-modernizasyon-yolu/, (Date of Accession: 01.09.2022).

[2] “Kazakistan Cumhurbaşkanı Tokayev, İktidar Partisi Amanat’ın Genel Başkanlığından Çekildi”, AA, https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/kazakistan-cumhurbaskani-tokayev-iktidar-partisi-amanatin-genel-baskanligindan-cekildi/2573574, (Date of Accession: 01.09.2022).

[3] “Токаев объявил о проведении референдума по поправкам в Конституцию”, Forbes KZ, https://forbes.kz/process/tokaev_obyyavil_o_provedenii_referenduma_v_kazahstane_po_popravkam_v_konstitutsiyu/, (Date of Accession: 01.09.2022).

[4] “Kazakistan Cumhurbaşkanı’ndan Kritik Hamle: Erken Seçim Kararı Aldı”, Milli Gazete, https://www.milligazete.com.tr/haber/11903013/kazakistan-cumhurbaskanindan-kritik-hamle-erken-secim-karari-aldi, (Date of Accession: 01.09.2022).

[5] “Kazakistan’da 2023’te Devletin Tüm Siyasi Kilit Kurumları Yenilenecek”, Star, https://www.star.com.tr/dunya/kazakistanda-2023te-devletin-tum-siyasi-kilit-kurumlari-yenilenecek-haber-1734175/, (Date of Accession 02.09.2022).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.