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Under President Tokayev we see a greater commitment to political reform – EU expert

23 October 2020 18:15

BRUSSELS. KAZINFORM Through a decree signed on October 21 by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the date for the next parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan has been scheduled for January 10, 2021.

Our correspondent in Brussels asked Alberto Turkstra, Programme Director in European Institute for Asian Studies (Belgium) to share his thoughts on the upcoming parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan.

Alberto Turkstra is convinced that the elections offer an opportunity to test Kazakhstan’s recently implemented reforms in the political sphere, including the liberalization of electoral processes.

«More specifically, I am referring to the amendment adopted earlier this year to the Kazakh law on political parties and elections which decreased the number of signature required to register political parties – from 40,000 to 20,000,» he noted.

«In addition, quotas for women and youth (those under the age of 29) have been established in party lists. This is particularly important if you take into account the demographic profile of Kazakhstan where half of the population is under 30,» the EU expert pointed out.

«It is expected that these measures will broaden the political spectrum (currently there are six registered political parties in Kazakhstan) and facilitate the creation of new parties, as well as a culture of «parliamentary opposition». The January 2021 elections will be an important first test for their effectiveness,» Turkstra stressed.

In fact, according to him, this idea of parliamentary opposition was first put forward by President Tokayev in the December 2019 session of the newly-created National Council on Public Trust. This Council is formed by representatives from all walks of society, including human advocacy groups, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights, the Commissioner for Human Rights, the ombudsman for the protection of entrepreneurs, political scientists, civil society representatives, journalists and other public figures.

«Generally speaking, under President Tokayev we have seen a greater commitment to political reform, a listening state, civic engagement, enhanced state-society dialogue and thereby enhancing trust. The key takeaway is the realization that political modernization is also critical to advance the country’s socio-economic development. He has already taken some firm steps into creating a more enabling environment for civil society to flourish, encouraging a culture of peaceful protests and manifestations. As already mentioned, for the first time in Kazakhstan, concepts such as parliamentary opposition are being openly and actively discussed. All this points to a gradual modernization of Kazakhstan’s political culture,» he added.

Alberto Turkstra believes that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan will offer a unique opportunity to further develop and consolidate multi-party democracy in Kazakhstan.