Kazakhstan’s constitutional referendum defined – EURACTIV.com

On Friday (3 June), Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev gave the shortest speech of his profession – solely three minutes, expressing the ambition “to make New Kazakhstan a reality” during which social justice could be the principal worth.

On the identical day in Nur-Sultan, EURACTIV gathered the views of politicians, parliamentarians, diplomats and residents forward of the constitutional referendum.

When Tokayev introduced the nationwide referendum on his proposed amendments to the county’s structure a month in the past, he warned towards what he described as “provocateurs who are trying to undermine the unity in the country”.

Tokayev’s transfer was seen within the context of the reforms he proposed after the January unrest, which revealed that the Central Asian nation was extra fragile, socially and politically, than typically thought.

The 56 amendments embody limiting presidential powers, giving extra energy to the Parliament and making it extra consultant by changing the proportional system of elections with a blended majoritarian-proportional one. It additionally features a important decentralisation of energy with extra competences given to regional and native authorities.

“The Constitutional referendum is not a direct response to the January events. Reforms were ongoing already. But “some people, certain forces, certain groups didn’t like those reforms”, Secretary of State of Kazakhstan Erlan Karin defined on Friday, talking to a bunch of visiting overseas journalists.

Karin, who occupies the fifth most essential submit within the nation, features because the president’s consultant coping with home coverage and interplay with civil society.

He didn’t title the folks and forces who fought towards Tokayev’s reforms however stated they had been those that profited from the monopolistic place in politics and economics which they loved underneath the previous president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In his phrases, the January occasions had been an try by these forces to finish the reforms “by using the reforms against us”. He gave the instance of the political conferences which Tokayev authorised however had been utilized by these forces, as he stated, to impress mass disturbances.

One of the narratives of these against reforms, as Karin defined, was that underneath Tokayev, there have been too many political conferences which led to destabilisation.

“This is why we took, after the January events, the most correct decision: not to stop the reforms, but to accelerate them”, he stated. However, he insisted that the referendum was not a direct reply to the January occasions, though he admitted that these occasions significantly influenced Tokayev’s resolution to vary the structure.

A check of confidence

Diplomats see the constitutional referendum as a check of the boldness of Kazakhs of their new president. For the referendum to achieve success, it must be handed by a majority of fifty% +1 of all registered voters, and that at least two thirds (12) of nation’s 17 areas would assist the constitutional modifications.

The poll gives the selection to the voter to point in the event that they assist or don’t assist the constitutional modifications of their totality. There is not any choice for supporting sure modifications and rejecting others.

Kazakhs informed EURACTIV that there had been energetic discussions on social media concerning the referendum, some residents questioning the timing, contemplating that consultations and discussions may have lasted longer.

One of the constitutional modifications bans the demise penalty. Reportedly, this was one of many matters that prompted many discussions on social media, with some folks sustaining that capital punishment must be enforced for sure crimes.

Geopolitical challenges

The referendum shall be going down within the midst of a difficult geopolitical scenario, one which has developed drastically because the January unrest.

In his speech on Friday, Tokayev stated that “in the face of unprecedented geostrategic uncertainty and the need to address the complex challenges facing our country”, Kazakhs have to be sturdy of their unity and solidarity.

Aigul Kuspan, Chairwoman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security of Mazhilis of Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, supplied feedback on the geopolitical scenario of Kazakhstan and the struggle in Ukraine.

Kuspan, beforehand Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the EU, stated that Kazakhs felt the battle between “fraternal Slav peoples” in Ukraine “as their own tragedy”. She added that Kazakhstan has large Russian and Ukrainian diasporas and that the relations between these nations and Kazakhstan has historically been excellent.

In her evaluation of the struggle, Kuspan appeared to endorse the Russian narrative, saying that “danger for peace is radical nationalism” and that “nationalism and Nazism can appear in any country”.

Russia accuses Kyiv of harbouring harmful Nazis and has stated one of many targets of its “military operation” is to de-Nazify Ukraine.

Kuspan talked about large issues in Kazakhstan that the Western sanctions towards Russia may not directly harm the nation. Some eighty per cent of Kazakhstan’s oil commerce transits by way of Russia, and logistics are difficult for the landlocked nation, she stated.

A mission to export oil West whereas circumventing Russia would take time to construct, and the fee could be to the tune of $3-4 billion, she stated. Also, she talked about the difficulties of a pipeline mission underneath the Caspian Sea, primarily attributable to ecological issues.

Kazakhstan’s crude oil exports had been reported at 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2020. In comparability, the EU imported 2.2 million bpd of crude from Russia in 2021.

She insisted that Kazakhstan would keep impartial within the Ukraine struggle whereas calling for stopping the violence and for dialogue, together with by inviting Moscow and Kyiv to make use of Kazakhstan as a platform for talks.

Some 100,000 Russians have come to Kazakhstan because the starting of the struggle, including that the determine was not official. Reportedly, amongst them are individuals who need to proceed to do enterprise regardless of the sanctions. Kuspan stated that Kazakhstan was very business-friendly to buyers and that opening an organization was easy.

In Nur-Sultan, there aren’t any seen indicators of supporters of both aspect within the struggle in Ukraine. Reportedly, there’s a ban on each the show of Ukrainian flags and the pro-Russian “Z” signal.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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