Sunday, 16 June 2024

Biden bet on Tokayev

Biden bet on Tokayev
Monday, 27 November 2023 13:19

Kazakh President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev thanked US President Joe Biden for inviting him to the first summit of Central Asian and US leaders during a meeting in Astana with Gary Peters, chairman of the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The summit of Central Asian and US leaders will be held in the C5+1 format on the floor of the UN General Assembly in September this year.

Interestingly, this proposal was made at the time of the BRICS Summit, where new members were admitted to the organisation, and Tokayev offered his ideas on developing cooperation on security and climate change.

Obviously, the strengthening role of BRICS is of great concern to the United States and the collective West, which favours the development of bilateral relations, including with partners on the path of democratic reforms.

Among the states that have made a leap in this direction is Kazakhstan under the leadership of Kasym-Jomart Tokayev.

At the dawn of Kazakhstan’s independence in 1992, Tokayev was appointed deputy foreign minister, and in 1994 he rose to become the country’s foreign policy chief.

In March 1999, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev became Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, and in October of the same year he became Prime Minister. In 2002, he returned to diplomacy as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and in January 2007 he became Speaker of the Senate of the Parliament.

Tokayev was widely known abroad thanks to his work as a diplomat. And this is reflected, for example, in the fact that in 2011 he became Deputy Secretary General of the UN - Director General of the UN office in Geneva, as well as personal representative of the UN Secretary General at the Conference on Disarmament. No Kazakhstani has ever managed to reach such great heights at the international level before.

After two years of work in the UN structure, he returned to Kazakhstan, once again holding the post of the Speaker of the Senate of the Parliament in 2013. He worked in this position until March 2019, when, following the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, he became the new President of the Republic of Kazakhstan in full compliance with the Constitution of Kazakhstan. He then won early presidential elections in 2019 and 2022.

It is important to know the biography of Kasym-Jomart Tokayev to understand that his long work as an international diplomat and his labour in high managerial positions inside Kazakhstan gave him an understanding of what needs to be changed in the country to make the life of citizens better and the state itself stronger. Since becoming president, he has devoted himself fully to his work and does not even, by his own admission, celebrate his birthday. In 2023, he spends it in China for talks with the leader of the Celestial Empire, Xi Jinping.

More power for the people

By now, Kazakh President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev has already introduced several important reforms that have reduced his powers while strengthening the position of parliament and civil society.

For example, it increased the term of office of the head of state in Kazakhstan to seven years, but Tokayev himself and future presidents cannot run for a second term. During the exercise of his powers, the president of Kazakhstan is not allowed to belong to political parties, remaining an equidistant political force.

Close relatives of the president cannot hold positions of political civil servants and heads of state-owned companies. Tokayev also excluded from the laws all norms on the powers and status of the first president Nursultan Nazarbayev. This effectively excluded the latter from political processes in the country.

At the same time, the parliament was strengthened. Now the Senate, the upper house of parliament, gives its consent to the appointment of the chairman of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Judicial Council. There was also a return to a mixed - proportional-majoritarian - system of formation of the Majilis, i.e. the lower house of parliament. Now one third of the Majilis deputies are elected in single-mandate constituencies from the regions, i.e. representation of the regions in the legislative body has been restored.

The election of akims is being expanded - from 2023, direct elections of akims of districts and cities of regional significance will be held in a pilot mode. The akims of villages are already directly elected. Thanks to this, citizens are more involved in public administration, and the akims (mayors) themselves are most interested in working for the benefit of local residents.

It is also important to note the liberalisation of laws on rallies and peaceful assemblies. While previously it was necessary to obtain permits from local akimats (mayor’s offices), when Tokayev came to power, a notification procedure was introduced. That is, now activists just need to notify the authorities about where and when their rally will take place. And the notifications themselves are needed only to ensure security, not to control or disperse those gathered.

Tokayev also finally banned the death penalty as a punishment in Kazakhstan, bringing the country’s laws into line with international standards. This type of punishment has already been excluded from the criminal code and all laws where execution was mentioned.

And all this - the reduction of presidential powers, the strengthening of civil society and freedom of speech and assembly - is happening in the heart of Central Asia, where historically the position of "strong" government has been strong. In a region where leaders have ruled for decades, Tokayev has set out to build a democratic state where the nation’s interests are paramount and there is no room for monopoly of power or anything else.

Due to the fact that Kazakhstan is moving towards a democratic society, and Tokayev has made serious steps to move the country to a new level, Kazakhstan has every chance to become a leader in terms of development on the continent and create a real island of stability in the current geopolitics.

Against the background of such changes, US President Joe Biden’s invitation to dialogue looks like a logical step and may serve Kazakhstan’s national interests.


Biden Tokayev