The Platform

Fabio Chironi

Kazakhstan hopes to push ahead with a reform agenda.

In an address to Kazakhstan’s parliament on March 29, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the country’s president, addressed social and political developments over the past year against the backdrop of the country’s successful constitutional referendum in June of last year.

Due to voter preferences laid out in the referendum, Kazakhstan is transforming its institutions of power. Given geopolitical developments and a changing geopolitical landscape, Kazakhstan, in a relatively short period of time, held a constitutional referendum in June of last year, and the country also held early presidential elections and elections for deputies of the senate and the lower house of the parliament.

Political reforms in Kazakhstan are largely based on the formula of a strong executive with more limited powers than before the referendum, a parliament that is answerable to the people, and a more accountable government.

With Russia, China, and other autocratic regimes moving away from transparency and democracy, Kazakhstan should be largely commended for embracing a democratic future and rolling out a reform agenda. Recent events in the country’s history, in particular large-scale protests in January of 2022, prompted Kazakhstan to implement a series of reforms. This movement towards the democratization of the political process also seeks ways to engage Kazakh citizens more directly with the aim of increasing their political participation.

In the address, Tokayev identified priorities facing parliament and the need to embrace democratization for the sake of the country’s democratic future.

Tokayev called for stimulating business activity and the need to unlock industrial growth. He also pushed to review approaches to infrastructure development, address food security, improve the quality of human capital, support the socially vulnerable, and strengthen human rights protections.

To achieve these lofty goals as well as to improve the well-being of Kazakh citizens, Tokayev and his government will need several important things to align. The most key is geopolitical uncertainty, specifically the war in Ukraine that has directly impacted Kazakhstan. If a path forward can be found to end the war, then issues such as food security, the global economy, and Russia’s economic outlook will be less uncertain. If the war can be resolved, and reforms within Kazakhstan move ahead as planned, the short-term future of the country will be brighter.

Theo Casablanca is a blogger who lives in Brasília.