ArticlesResults of the Presidential Election in Kazakhstan. Tokayev: "We...

Results of the Presidential Election in Kazakhstan. Tokayev: “We Should Pursue a Multi-vector Foreign Policy”

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According to the preliminary results of the presidential elections held on November 20 in Kazakhstan, the current head of state, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, won by a landslide with 81.31% of the vote, meaning 6,456,392, reports Zakon.kz.

“Given its geopolitical location, Kazakhstan should pursue a multi-vector foreign policy”, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev told reporters after voting in the presidential election. “I believe that, given our geopolitical situation and the fact that we have an over $500 billion economy, and considering that there are global companies operating in our market, we simply have to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy.” Tokayev said. This statement could be interpreted as taking a greater distance from the Russian Federation, in order not to risk sanctions, but also making the most of the implications of the war in Ukraine (many Russian companies are moving their headquarters and operations to Kazakhstan).

If, in the polls of June 9, 2019, Tokaev won the early presidential elections with 70.96% of the votes, having the unlimited support of the former Kazakh leader, Nursultan Nazarbaev, we notice the increase to over 81% of the votes. The power of the current president has been strengthened, especially through the removal from power of several members of the Nazarbaev family.

We must not forget, however, about the bloody protests in January of the current year, in which at least 230 people were killed. The official version is that massive protests started in Kazakhstan, involving the residents of the cities of Zhanaozen and Aktau in the west of the country, who were opposing the price doubling of liquefied gas, as well as corruption in the country. The protests later spread to other cities, especially in the largest Kazakh city, Alma-Ata, as well as in the capital, Astana. In response, the authorities declared a state of emergency across the country until January 19 and launched a counter-terrorism operation. The reality is that the economic situation of the country is a precarious one, the population protested for real change, however, nothing happened except for a fight between the Tokaev clan and the Nazarbaev clan, in fact a struggle to remove the members of the Nazarbaev clan from all state structures and the total concentration of power in the hands of the actual president.

Presidential election results for the other 5 candidates are as follows: 206,206, or 2.6% of voters voted for Karakat Abden; 176,116 or 2.22% for Nurlan Auesbaev; 271,641 or 3.42% for Zhiguli Dayrabaev; 200,907 or 2.53% for Meiram Kazhyken and 168,731, or 2.12% for Saltanat Tursynbekova. We should not omit the fact that, again, there was no real representative of the Kazakh opposition who was allowed to participate in the electoral race, and the two women candidates were included in the running only as a facade.

It is also worth mentioning the introduction of a new element, in which voters have the option to choose not to vote for any candidate, basically an anti-system vote. This option was chosen by 460,484 or 5.8% of voters, who therefore voted against every candidate.

Undoubtedly, the Republic of Kazakhstan is going through radical changes. In April, Tokayev proposed holding a referendum on several important issues related to the position of head of state. The amendments to the Constitution were supported by 77.18% of the voters, and on June 8, the changes entered into force. The amendments are intended to cement the eventual transition from a “super-presidential” form of government to a presidential republic with an influential Parliament and a government with extended powers. To this end, the amendments reduce the excessive concentration of presidential powers. In particular, the participation of the head of state in the formation of the upper chamber of the Parliament is reduced, and his influence on the representative and local executive bodies is limited. Of course, the most important was the introduction of the rule of a single mandate, but with a longer duration, of 7 years. This reform was the most praised one by the international community, especially since there is no initiative of this kind in the former Soviet space, and it is not even the norm in most democratic states.

A few months ago, it was believed that the referendum on the constitution was a vote of confidence for Tokayev, especially since one of the most memorable amendments was the removal of the title of “Elbasy” (meaning “leader of the nation”, it was one of the important elements of Nazarbaev’s cult of personality), under the pretext of common knowledge of his merits.

It is curious that the rule of “7 years in power without the right to re-election” will not come into force now, during the term of the current president, but only in the year 2027. This will happen because Tokayev has promised to introduce a new amendment to the constitution after the early elections, although nothing prevented him from doing it before.

From now on, presidential elections will be held once every 5 years (until the Fall of 2027), followed by a 7-year term (until 2034). Of course, this change does not apply to Tokayev now, but it does not change the essence and the benefits it brings. It is true that the presidential elections were held at this moment in order to prevent (if the changes to the Kazakh constitution are maintained) the impact of negative internal and external factors on the stability of power over the next 5 years.

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