Understanding Reforms in Kazakhstan
Just over two years ago, Kazakhstan witnessed a change in its leadership, which opened the way for social and political reforms. Under President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kazakhstan is going through a major stage of its development, which combines elements of reform, and anti-crisis response.
To understand the direction of further developments in Kazakhstan and its political course, it is important to understand Tokayev’s approach and vision for social and political reforms, which he has outlined since he became president.
First, there is a balanced combination of continuity, which includes a continuation of the political course set by his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and progress aimed at renewal in all spheres of society. The latter is specifically focused on carrying out political reforms to develop an efficient government.
The implementation of these reforms takes into account the necessity to ensure stable and sustainable development of the country, reduce the risk of destabilizing the internal political situation, and exclude populist reforms for the sake of reforms. As Tokayev noted at the meeting of the National Council of Public Trust in 2019: “We will carry out political reforms without getting ahead of ourselves, thoughtfully and gradually, but not lagging behind.” The reforms are also carried out in the interest of the majority of the population with the intent of strengthening national unity.
Secondly, the country’s reforms are characterized by the formula “a strong president; an influential parliament; and, an accountable government.” On the one hand, this preserves the presidential form of government in Kazakhstan. At the same time, an emphasis is placed on increasing the level of parliamentary participation in the government decision-making process and the level of government efficiency by strengthening its responsibility and accountability, primarily to society. As such, a foundation has been laid for strengthening democratic institutional principles in Kazakhstan’s political system.
Thirdly, Tokayev also put forward the principle “different opinions – but one nation,” focused on the recognition of the importance of political diversity, pluralism of opinions and alternative points of view, as well as the formation of a new political culture through constructive dialogue. Furthermore, Tokayev initiated the concept of a “listening state” – a state that listens and responds to the needs and concerns of its citizens and encourages regular dialogue. This concept pushes the state to respond to all citizen requests in a timely and efficient manner and encourages the involvement of representatives of civil society in the discussion of the most pressing domestic issues.
Naturally, the implementation of these reforms requires substantial systematic and well-coordinated work of all state organizations, as well as the participation of interested citizens and civil society institutions. Implementing major political reforms can sometimes take time. However, the process can be made more efficient if there is constructive engagement and dialogue at all levels, including between the government and the society, and within the society itself. Ultimately, I believe Kazakhstan has taken the course in the right direction.