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Two years of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's presidency: Reforms, National Council of Public Trust, fight against coronavirus pandemic

12 June 2021 10:00

NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM – President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev took office on June 12, 2019. During the inauguration ceremony, the Head of State assured Kazakhstanis that he would always protect the interests of the country and his ultimate goal is to ensure the unity of society and protect the rights and interests of every citizen.

In his first speech in the new capacity the Head of State highlighted the following key directions:

increasing the population’s income;

eradication of corruption;

reform of the judicial and law-enforcement systems;

fair social policy;

solving the housing problem;

development of the regions; well balanced and multi-vector foreign policy;

supporting the youth.

Since early days of his presidency President Tokayev insisted he would work to deliver on the First President-Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev’s strategy.

One of the first steps of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan was the creation of the National Council of Public Trust which consisted of people who enjoyed authority with Kazakhstan’s society. The Council’s work has proved to be useful for the development of a dialogue between the state and society. The sessions of the Council are filled with open discussions of the most pressing issues, including those related to the political modernization of the country. As a result of these discussions the crucial bills go into the development. Nine of these have already become laws in effect.

In the very beginning of his presidency Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced the plans to gradually implement three packages of political reforms. The first package of reforms which was discussed at the session of the National Council of Public Trust has already been realized. The registration barrier for the creation of political parties was cut in half, 30% quota for the youth and women in the voting lists of the parties was introduced, and the institute of parliamentary opposition was established.

Decriminalization of Article 130 and humanization of Article 174 of the Criminal Code were initiated and the Law on rallies was adopted as part of the first package of reforms. Kazakhstan abolished the death penalty in line with the second protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The second package of political reforms was revealed in the State-of-the-nation address in September 2000. This package of reforms ensures a switch to the direct elections of rural governors starting from 2021 as well as the development of the concept of local self-government and the Law «On public control».

The President also instructed to establish a unified institute of online petitions as well as to improve the legislation in the sphere of fight against tortures and human trafficking, protection of the citizens against cyberbullying, and the necessity to access the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure.

Reforms put forward in the third package are also of paramount importance for further improvement of Kazakhstan’s political system and human rights’ protection system. It was suggested reducing the electoral threshold for political parties to the Majilis from 7% to 5%, a measure called to develop political competition. Moreover, ‘against all’ option will appear on voting ballots in election on all levels. Political experts believe that this novelty will help boost activity of political parties. The President of Kazakhstan also instructed to adopt a separate law on the Human Rights Commissioner, strengthen the Ombudsman’s office and open regional offices across the country.

Three packages of political reforms spearheaded by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will help Kazakhstan make headway in such issues as protection of human rights, bigger role of society in governing the state, development of parliamentarianism and further democratization of the country.

The Head of State’s work in terms of attention focused on school, college, and university teachers which is congruent with the general policy of increasing the quality of education – greater competitiveness of Kazakhstan during globalization - did not go unnoticed. In August 2019, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced that salaries of teachers, who used to earn less than others, would double in the four years to come, which was positively received by the Kazakhstani society.

In May this year the second selection for the President’s youth personnel reserve kicked off, with the first one conducted in 2019. So far, many of 300 selected young persons have taken responsible public and quasi-public posts. The idea of establishing the youth personnel reserve for the civil service was put forward by the President who believes that Kazakhstan’s future lies in the hands of the youth in his inauguration speech.

Tokayev’s presidency was tested by the accident in Arys city in June 2019. The Head of State convened the operations center to eliminate the fallout from the Arys accident, met with evacuated citizens. The city was rebuilt and retuned back to normalcy as instructed by the President.

President Tokayev always has his finger on the pulse. It is him who came up with the idea of ‘a listening state’ implying social media presence of all officials in charge. As the founder of the idea the Head of State has published several hundreds of posts on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, including about his concern about the treatment of local officials of unique Lake Kobeituz, Akmola region, and gave some instructions. There were also posts on the construction in the Bozzhyra reserve, Mangistau region, and illegal cutting of trees in Almaty city.

Kazakhstan struck by the global COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 has provided all necessary medical help to those among the first to contract the virus and those who came into contact with the infected were timely isolated.

The country immediately started to implement measures to curb the first COVID-19 cases, including closure of cinemas, play rooms at trade centers as well as reducing physical staff attendance at workplaces.

In March 16, 2020, school students were sent to early breaks, and college and university students switched to distance learning. Bans to hold mass events, including Nauryz celebrations, and traveling to some countries hit hard by the COVID-19 virus were in place.

In his March 20 televised address President Tokayev stated that Kazakhstan was among the first few countries to set up a special expert staff and interdepartmental commission on the government level as well as to adopt the plan to prevent the spread of the virus.

«The coronavirus pandemic declared by the WHO reached a threatening scale. Therefore, pursuant to the Kazakh legislature I signed the decree to announce the state of emergency in the country, with it in effect from March 16, 2020, 8:00am and lasting 30 days. The regime could be prolonged if needed,» said the President.

The Head of State also talked about the restrictions and the pandemic’s impact on the economy.

«Despite the economic upheavals all necessary measures to prevent increased social unrest, unemployment will be in place. Owing to the far-sighted policy of Elbasy Nursultan Nazatbayev the international reserves of the country have reached around $90 billion, which is a serious safeguard for maintaining stability of the economy and meeting the country’s social obligations,» said Tokayev.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that budget expenditures would be repurposed for the directions key to employment retention. In particular, the point at issue was allocation of KZT 300 billion to support entrepreneurs, create new jobs and increase the Economy of simple things program budgeting. The Government and governors were charged to monitor the prices to avoid overpricing.

The President signed the corresponding decree «On measures to provide stable functioning of the country» which let raise effectiveness of state bodies, strengthen vertical power structure and promptly take necessary decisions amid the crisis, including taxation sphere. The decree laid foundation for purchasing pharmaceuticals and other products under simplified procedure, basically, from domestic producers.

All the efforts aimed at protecting people from infection contamination, stabilizing economic situation in the country hit the headlines. New modular infectious diseases hospitals, provisional hospitals were built in a short period of time in the country’s biggest cities of Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Shymkent. There were sufficient infectious diseases and quarantine beds and the required amount of drugs countrywide. Military medics were attracted to fight coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic. Pursuant to the President’s task more than 4.5 million Kazakhstanis laboring under quarantine restrictions were paid welfare benefits up to KZT 42,500. More than one million people received food aid. Almost two million Kazakhstanis were granted loan payments standstills, and the second-tier banks and development institutions were instructed to prevent reduction of business credits.

Thanks to the measures taken the country maintained order and discipline, the sick received quality medical care, lots of lives were saved despite the lack of the most efficient treatment guidelines. Health workers, involved in epidemiological response, were paid salary supplements depending on the degree of contamination risk. The mass vaccination against COVID-19 with foreign vaccines began in Kazakhstan this February. The homegrown vaccines are being successfully developed.

The Decree of the Head of State issued this week «On further measures of Kazakhstan in the field of human rights» was positively assessed by the majority of Kazakhstani experts. They say the decree may accelerate the existing processes aimed at providing rights of people with disabilities. Thus, Veniamin Alayev, the head of commission for human rights of disabled persons named after Kairat Imanaliyev, noted heightened attention in Kazakhstan to the problems of the disabled. Activists and experts with special needs more often than not are invited to the take part in the working groups, particularly, at the Majilis, Senate, Labor Ministry to put forward their proposals.

Majority of political scientists and experts for the past two years of the presidency of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted that the policy of the Head of State is the stability, democratization, progress to the supremacy of law, raising efficiency of protection of constitutional rights of the citizens. It is the progress to the fair civic society and an effective, transparent state with succession and predictability.

Director of the Institute of European Law and Human Rights and member of the National Council of Public Trust Marat Bashimov noted that since the election as the President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stressed that ‘Kazakhstan is firmly resolved to build a ‘Listening State’ which is economically strong, democratically developed and focused on repletion of needs of each citizen’.

«It can be said that we follow this path and it is impossible to deviate from it now. We carry out necessary political reforms called to give a new impulse to the development for the sake of our society. The policy of the Head of State to follow the path of building an economically strong, socially fair and open society with strong principles and forward-looking values, the path of consistent reforms and transformation is taking its shape today and is well received. And the key is that there is no alternative to this policy, there is no way back. It is a conscious choice based on the nationwide consensus,» Bashimov stressed.