Kazakh president proposes to bring forward presidential elections

Nursultan, Sep 1 (EFE).- Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Thursday proposed to bring forward to the fall the presidential elections, initially scheduled for 2024, and the legislative elections to the first half of 2023, as well as announcing his intention to run again as head of state.

In a message to the nation, the president explained his initiative because of the need for a “new mandate of public confidence” to undertake the reforms needed in the Central Asian country.

“I propose to hold early presidential elections this fall. To successfully implement cardinal and comprehensive reforms aimed at building a just Kazakhstan we need a new mandate of people’s trust,” Tokayev said in parliament as he opened the legislative session.

He added that, in his opinion, the interests of the state are “above all else” and that he is therefore ready to shorten his presidential term and run for the presidency.

“I am ready to participate in early presidential elections, even despite the shortening of my term,” he said.

Tokayev also proposed a constitutional amendment to increase the presidential term from five to seven years without the possibility of re-election.

“I thought long and hard and came to the conclusion that it is necessary to reconsider the number and length of the president’s term of office. I recommend limiting the president’s term to seven years. But re-election is prohibited,” said the president, who in 2019 won the presidential elections with 71 % of the vote.

Tokayev further argued that all the reforms he proposed to amend the Constitution – which will allow the country to transition from a “super-presidential” state to a presidential one with a stronger parliament, and which were approved in June in a referendum – should be implemented by the end of the year, so that legislative elections can also be held in the first half of 2023.

“We will have new members of parliament representing the interests of broad groups of citizens. I am sure this will increase the efficiency of work,” he said.

The next parliamentary elections were scheduled for 2025 after they were held in 2021.

“As a result, by mid-2023, all major political institutions will be restarted and updated: the president, the parliament, the government,” he concluded.

Tokayev’s proposal comes seven months after violent protests rocked the country, spurred by social discontent with corruption and the nation’s elite, in which the family of the first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, had great influence and vast economic and political interests.

Those protests, which initially erupted over the rising price of liquefied gas, turned into riots that left 240 people dead and nearly 4,600 injured, and were suppressed amid allegations of a coup attempt.

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.

Kazakh political scientist Karlygash Yezhenova told Efe that the president has taken the step of calling early elections because he was sure that the population would support him.

At the same time, she believes that this decision is a risky step.

“The president chose, as they say, the lesser evil. That is, if he were to run in 2024, as he was supposed to do initially then the situation there could be more uncertain,” the expert said.

The analyst believes that in the early elections there will be no alternatives to Tokayev, as possible competitors have very little time to prepare. EFE



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