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Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev promised to implement a series of reforms in the tightly-controlled former Soviet country, just two months after Kazakhstan witnessed deadly, unprecedented nationwide protests, the Associated Press reported.
Tokayev proposed sweeping changes in order to avoid deepening “stagnation” in the resource-rich Central Asian nation. Changes would include a transition away from the country’s super-presidential system and the easing rules for registering new political parties.
The reforms would also allow 30 percent of lawmakers to be elected in single-mandate districts and prevent the president from firing regional officials at will.
The proposals follow the deadly unrest that swept the nation in January: Protests ignited in western Kazakhstan over rising car fuel prices but soon devolved into violence that left at least 230 dead.
The changes are seen as an attempt to address the wealth gap between the nation’s richest citizens and the rest of the population, adding urgency to the government’s desire to be recognized as accountable.
Another factor is concern over the potential economic collapse of neighboring Russia, Kazakhstan’s chief trading partner. The Russian economy has been battered by international sanctions following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the pledges, Kazakh leaders have made similar promises to democratize in the past but have failed to implement any changes.
Meanwhile, as Kazakh leaders promise change, in neighboring Turkmenistan, newly elected leader Serdar Berdymukhamedov, the son of autocratic incumbent Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, pledged to keep things as they are after winning elections earlier this week, according to Radio Free Europe.
The weekend presidential election was widely viewed as a formality to the transfer of political power within the family.