Kazakh leader scores victory with constitutional referendum - bdsthanhhoavn.com

Kazakh leader scores victory with constitutional referendum

NUR-SULTAN, June 6 (Reuters) – Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will be hoping the approval in a referendum of constitutional amendments he championed will help him move out of his predecessor’s shadow and cement his role as a long-awaited reformer.

Vote results on Monday showed convincing support in the previous day’s vote for the amendments that Tokayev has promoted as a foundation for a more democratic social contract in the oil-rich Central Asian country allied with Russia.

The Central Election Commission said that 77.18% of votes were in favour of the amendments, which decentralise decision-making and strip former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev of his “national leader” status. Turnout was 68.06%.

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Long prized for political stability by Western investors who have poured hundreds of billions of dollars into its energy and mining industries, Kazakhstan went through a deadly bout of unrest in January, including an attempted coup by top security officials.

Tokayev did not comment on the referendum result on Monday.

Analysts said the referendum was in part a response to January’s unrest which started as a protest against a fuel price increase and grew into a broad display of public discontent.

Many Kazakhs have for several years been calling for change to a political system that concentrates power and wealth in the presidency and his associates, analysts say.

“Tokayev understands this and that is why, to a certain degree, he tries to position himself using this referendum as a man who is trying to change something,” political analyst Dosym Satpayev said before the vote.

Tokayev has called for higher taxes on the lucrative extractive industries and high-income individuals, saying social justice would be the cornerstone of a new social contract.

Tokayev proposed the reforms after putting down the coup attempt, ending the unrest and removing his former patron, Nazarbayev, and his relatives from important positions in the public sector.

The vote indicates that many Kazakhs support the sidelining of Nazarbayev, who ran the country for three decades before giving up the presidency in 2019 and picking Tokayev as a successor.

Securing domestic support will also help Tokayev, a 69-year-old career diplomat, navigate the Ukrainian crisis which has destabilised Kazakhstan’s economy and put it in a difficult geopolitical position.

While many Kazakhs have welcomed Tokayev’s emergence as leader, some have criticised his decision to ask a Russia-led security bloc for help in quelling January’s unrest, putting the Kazakh leadership in Russia’s debt, in the eyes of many, weeks before it invaded Ukraine.

Western sanctions against Russia have hit Kazakhstan. The tenge currency plunged almost as much as the Russian rouble did in March before recovering, and logistics have become much harder for Kazakh companies dealing with European counterparties.

Tokayev has been very circumspect in commenting on the Ukrainian crisis, although he has urged all sides to act in line with the U.N. charter. On the economy, he has said his so-called Second Republic vision includes a more just redistribution of wealth.

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Reporting by Tamara Vaal; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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