The New Guard
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Kazakh voters overwhelmingly backed a series of constitutional changes aimed at reforming the country’s political system and curbing the privileges of founding leader Nursultan Nazarbayev after three decades of rule, Agence France-Presse reported.
The referendum is part of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s “New Kazakhstan” initiative that would amend one-third of the country’s constitution: The changes would include more representation of various groups in parliament and decentralized decision-making.
Among the main reforms, it would also prevent relatives of the president from holding government positions and do away with Nazarbayev’s privileges, including his title of “Elbasy,” or “Leader of the Nation.”
Tokayev – who was handpicked by his predecessor in 2019 – has emerged as a more independent figure after quashing violent unrest earlier this year, as well as removing Nazarbayev and his relatives from key government positions, according to Al Jazeera.
The unrest – which has been described as an attempted coup – began against a fuel price hike but soon evolved into a mass popular protest against a system that concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a few.
More than 230 people were killed and the Kazakh government called in troops from a Russia-led security bloc to curb the violence.
Still, some critics said the referendum was an attempt by Tokayev to legitimize his power and strip Nazarbayev’s privileges as the country’s founding father. They noted that the amendments included very few limits to presidential power, adding that the president is planning to “reset his relations” with the people after the violent crackdown.