Tokayev announces referendum to reform Kazakh Constitution

Nur-Sultan, Apr 29 (EFE).- President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced on Friday that a referendum is to be held soon to reform Kazakhstan’s Constitution to one that limits the power of the head of state while granting Parliament a bigger role in running the Central Asian republic.

Calling the reforms part of the process to create “a new Kazakhstan,” Tokayev made the announcement in a virtual speech to a session of the People’s Assembly, which brings together representatives of the more than 140 ethnic groups that populate the former Soviet republic.

The consultation, possibly within two months, is to deal with 33 of the 98 articles earmarked for reform in the 1995 Constitution, which was approved in a referendum four years after Kazakhstan proclaimed independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Kazakhstan is in a process of “transition” to limit the powers of the president, strengthen the functions of Parliament and reform political parties, justice and the electoral system, among others, in order to provide greater participation of civil society and more human rights protection.

“We are moving towards a new state model, towards a new format of interaction between the state and society. This qualitative transition can be called the Second Republic,” said Tokayev.

“A strong president, an influential Parliament and a responsible government” is the spirit that guides these changes, which are part of a process that began long ago and that in different phases plans to advance towards “a new republic,” he said.

This push towards what the president calls “a new Kazakhstan,” with the announcement of the constitutional referendum in this country of some 19 million inhabitants, comes after a wave of protests in January caused 240 deaths, nearly 4,600 injuries and about 10,000 detainees.

Tokayev described the uprising as a coup attempt, which began peacefully due to social demands such as a reduction in the price of gas but turned violent.

According to the Kazakh government, the violence was unleashed by the intervention of terrorist groups that sought to provoke an armed conflict in order to seize power.

Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world that borders the large markets of Russia and China and forms a bridge between Europe and Asia, is betting that the reform process will boost the oil- and mineral-rich nation’s economy as it eyes closer ties to the European Union. EFE

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