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Apr 29, 2022
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Tokayev decided to build France in Kazakhstan

Pictured: President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

In the photo: President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (Photo: Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan/TASS)

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed to hold a referendum on the issue of amending the country’s constitution. Amendments to 33 articles of the basic law, that is, a third of the entire constitution, have already been prepared by a working group. According to Tokayev, the country is on the course of comprehensive democratization and building a new Kazakhstan.

“We are moving to a new state model, a new format for interaction between the state and society. This qualitative transition can be called the Second Republic,” Tokayev said, adding that the referendum is the most important democratic institution, but in Kazakhstan it was last held in 1995, when the current Constitution was approved.

“I believe that changing the Constitution through a popular vote will be a vivid demonstration of the will of the people,” the head of Kazakhstan emphasized and noted that “the referendum will allow every citizen to take a direct part in deciding the fate of the country.”

Tokayev explained that the “new Kazakhstan” is the way to strengthen the national identity of the republic in a dynamically changing world and this concept cannot be “talked out”. To build a new model of the republic, “it is required to completely reformat the system of individual and social values.”

Recall that in early January 2022, mass protests took place in Kazakhstan, the reason for which was an increase in gas prices. Later, the rallies turned into riots, the protesters demanded the resignation of the government. Against this background, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dismissed the government, carried out a number of reforms in the country and fired officials who held high positions in state-owned companies. In addition, he began to take steps to reduce the influence of the former president in the country. Nursultan Nazarbayev and circles close to it.

The discussion of amendments to the Constitution of Kazakhstan immediately led to a discussion about whether this process will end with the country’s exit from the EAEU. However, on April 29, Tokayev had a telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin and as reported Dmitry Peskovthe topic of Kazakhstan’s withdrawal from the Eurasian Economic Union and the Customs Union of the EAEU was not touched upon. Instead, “topical topics on the bilateral agenda and prospects for further expansion of trade and economic cooperation” were discussed, as well as “issues of interaction within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization were touched upon.”

Tokayev’s statement about the “Second Republic”, of course, immediately evokes associations with France, which already lives under the Fifth Republic. Previous constitutional changes occurred both after bloody revolutions and wars, and as a result of political reforms, like, in fact, the current republic, proclaimed Charles de Gaulle in 1958.

Russian political scientist, President of the Center for the Development of Regional Policy Foundation Ilya Grashchenkov believes that comparisons with France are hardly applicable to the present, but in general, Tokayev has a chance to change the nature of the state and move away from the post-Soviet model.

— Tokayev said that his main slogan is “fair Kazakhstan” and it is clear that behind this lies some kind of anti-elite agenda. The January events that took place in the country were largely due to the fact that the ruling clan of the former president had too much resources. Other groups of influence tried to intercept them, relying on popular discontent. It was, rather, an inter-oligarchic war, but based on popular opinion.

Most likely, now there are also some attempts by the new government to rely on popular opinion. And I think it could very well work. Kazakhstan has taken a principled position and does not want to get closer to Russia. Even within the framework of the EAEU, he tries to implement agreements to a minimum. But, at the same time, he does not want to go under China, realizing that he will lose his sovereignty. The Kazakh authorities are trying to build some kind of internal space, perhaps together with Uzbekistan. The challenge is to build a regional power, and being close to the people helps build some sense of justice.

I believe that Tokayev’s “Second Republic” is an attempt to build not a post-Soviet, but a new one – a more democratic and more just Kazakhstan. It remains to be seen what he means by justice.

“SP”: – What changes in the constitution can be expected from Tokayev?

– The previous constitution was remade by Nazarbayev with various guarantees and other points. Now we see an attempt to play back a little. In general, all these flirting with the constitution can be divided into two parts.

There are basic concepts of the constitution that define the basic relationships in society, and there are amendments and articles that are adopted in the interests of specific players, forces, and so on. We need to wait and see what kind of amendments we are talking about in Kazakhstan, whether they will affect basic things or small things. The Americans at one time, for example, took the path of numerous amendments. Perhaps Kazakhstan will also follow this path, abandon the basic changes, but will accept various amendments.

Director of the Institute of Regional Problems Dmitry Zhuravlev believes that Tokayev is trying to build a state according to the Western model, which will inevitably lead to a distance from Russia, which, however, is already happening.

“It all depends on what changes are being proposed. In France, the change of republics was connected with the fact that the constitution was changing. But the First Republic is generally a republic Robespierre. The Fourth Republic was established after World War II, the Fifth by General de Gaulle in 1958. But each time it was accompanied by serious transformations in the basic law of the state.

Simply replacing the first republic in Kazakhstan with the second is not so difficult. The question is in what aspects the constitution will be changed. Moreover, these cardinal changes are not an end in themselves, they should be a means to achieve something.

What does Tokayev propose? We do not yet know for sure, but judging by his declarations, this is a turn from the state economy to private initiative. That is, the transition to a paradigm that is more Western in its essence, in which the key element will be an entrepreneur, not an official. But it has to be done legally somehow. You can’t just write in the constitution: “And now the main ones are businessmen.”

Most likely, some kind of system of checks and balances will be created to limit bureaucratic arbitrariness. A year ago, Tokayev said that there should not be selected companies that, relying on support from the state, would have certain privileges. That is, the goal of the president is clear – liberalization on the Western model. But how this will be formalized by law, we do not yet know, and success will largely depend on this.

“SP”: – How will such changes affect the relations of Kazakhstan with Russia, with the EAEU?

– These relations will in any case become more complicated, although they will not be catastrophically bad. All countries of the former Soviet Union are trying to emancipate themselves from us. Not because they hate us, but because we are the country from which they broke away. For them, the first thesis of independence is being different from us. From this point of view, in any case, they will rake us away, to a greater or lesser extent.

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