Initial results show 77 percent of Kazakhs support amendments to Constitution

Nur-Sultan, Jun 6 (EFE).- More than 77 percent of Kazakhs voted Sunday in favor of changing the Constitution to move from a “super-presidential” state to a more decentralized system with a stronger parliament, according to initial results released by the Central Electoral Commission in Central Asia’s largest republic.

Official results showed that the modification to the Magna Carta, proposed after violent protests last January, was supported by 77 percent of voters, while 18 percent of Kazakhs were against the proposal.

The turnout at the polls in Kazakhstan’s first referendum in 27 years was 68 percent, authorities said.

“The referendum has been held, the decision has been made,” Vitaly Voronov, a member of the Human Rights Commission that reports to the Kazakh presidency, told Efe.

According to Voronov, the first results show the people’s confidence in “the current president and authorities.”

Voronov, who spoke to a number of voters on election day, said that many Kazakhs are now confident that the amendments to the Constitution will lead to “real changes” in the lives of citizens.

The president of Central Asia’s largest economy, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, hoped for the public’s support for the referendum he put forward just over a month ago to unite people and soothe tensions after violent protests in January.

“Today is a historic day for our country. Citizens are making a momentous decision” after three decades of leadership by the nation’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Kazakh leader said the day before.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi highlighted the significance of the vote.

“The approved amendments mean a new phase in the development of our statehood at clearly strengthening the human rights protection mechanisms and the democratic institutions in Kazakhstan,” he said.

Tokayev, in power since 2019, assured that the referendum is a guarantee that the events of January will not be repeated by opening the way to a “new” Kazakhstan.

The vote was held five months after violent protests, spurred by social discontent with corruption and the country’s elite, in which Nazarbayev’s family had a major influence and vast economic and political interests.

The protests, which initially erupted over a price hike in liquefied gas, turned into riots that resulted in 240 dead and nearly 4,600 injured, and were suppressed amid allegations of an attempted coup.

Since then, Tokayev has managed to emerge as an independent figure – many considered that Nazarbayev was still ruling in the shadows – and has succeeded in ousting his predecessor and his relatives from important economic and political posts.

The Kazakhs had to vote en bloc on 56 amendments affecting 33 articles of the Magna Carta.

The reforms are aimed at reducing the powers of the president left over from the Nazarbayev era, so that he will not be able to belong to any political party and will not be able to overrule the decisions of the akim or leaders of local and regional executive bodies, among other limitations.

In addition, the head of state’s closest relatives will be prohibited from holding political and leadership positions in the quasi-public sector.

Both the Mazhilis (lower house) and the Senate, however, will gain powers and responsibilities.

As Eduard Mujamedzhanov, a doctor in legal sciences, explained to Efe, “we cannot expect everything to change immediately after the referendum.”

The amendments will take shape through changes in existing laws, something that will still require some time. EFE

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