Kazakhs to vote on constitutional reforms to limit presidential powers 

Kazakhs to vote on constitutional reforms to limit presidential powers 

Kazakhs are due to vote in a referendum on constitutional reforms on June 5 on 33 separate articles – about a third of the constitution, in moves that restrict presidential powers. 

The proposed reforms were developed by a working group established by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in March. 

The authorities say the reforms will transform the sprawling Central Asian state from a presidential system to a “presidential system with a strong parliament”. 

In a televised address, Tokayev told the nation: “The constitutional reform will mark a new stage in the development of our country. 

“The changes will affect a third of its articles. Therefore, I proposed to bring this issue to a republican referendum, because such large-scale changes should be carried out on the basis of the will of the people,” the 68-year-old added.

The super-presidential system was adopted under a 1995 constitution of the first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, after he dissolved a non-compliant parliament.

But Nazarbayev began to loosen the president’s grip with constitutional amendments in 2017 and began a process to allow citizens to select their representatives at a village level.

The president claimed the reforms will bolster human rights by establishing a constitutional court, consolidating the status of the commissioner for human rights at the constitutional level and banning the death penalty.

The new reforms, if adopted, will prevent the president from membership of a political party and Tokayev last month resigned as chair of the Amanat party. 

The president also loses the power to overrule municipal leaders and their immediate family members are banned from holding political office.

The president will also only be able to appoint 10 parliamentarians, compared with the previous 15. 

The constitutional changes will allow the first direct election of village leaders or akims although urban residents are being offered little influence in the selection of their representatives. 

While voters can select their akims of oblasts and major cities, the candidates will be selected by the president.

Many of the proposed amendments reinstate checks on presidential power that previously existed and were scrapped by the dictatorial Nazarbayev, who has been increasingly sidelined since the riots in January. 

 

The country is still recovering from the intense violence of January that saw power shift firmly from former president Nursultan Nazarbayev (left) to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (right). Picture credit: YouTube  

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