(By Yerkin Akhinzhanov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan in Norway)
On 20 November Kazakhstan will hold Presidential election. This vote will be highly consequential for Kazakhstan’s democracy since the country’s independence in 1991.
This year has been the most tumultuous in our recent history. My country was first rocked by the tragic events in January, when Kazakhstan suffered an armed coup attempt. Just over a month later a conflict erupted in Ukraine, indirectly impacting our country’s economy.
Yet despite these challenges, the nation began writing a new chapter of its political development. In March, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed constitutional reforms by limiting the powers of the President, strengthening the role of parliament, enhancing citizens’ engagement in political processes, and further strengthening the protection of human rights. 77 percent of our citizens voted in favour of constitutional amendments in a June referendum.
The economic initiatives are focussed on diversification, de-monopolisation, and ensuring a fair distribution of the national income. Significantly the presidential term has been reduced from two five-year terms to a single seven-year period without the possibility of re-election. This should eliminate the risks of power monopolisation and strengthen the basic principles of democracy.
Given these substantial constitutional amendments and reforms, in September, incumbent President Tokayev decided to seek a democratic confirmation of his mandate for the fundamental transformation of Kazakhstan over the next seven years. Our country is changing at a swift pace, and it is important for our citizens to voice their opinion on the future direction of the nation. The election will offer an opportunity to reflect on the three years of Tokayev’s presidency, and to consider whether the people are on board with the vision for a New Kazakhstan.
Six candidates are running with varying political views, giving the electorate extensive choice. For the first time in our history, two female candidates are running for president. Over many years, Kazakhstan has been taking concrete steps to ensure gender equality and to promote women’s role in business and politics.
President Tokayev promised that the election will be held fairly, openly and with the broad participation of domestic and international observers. The elections will be monitored by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other international organisations. Kazakhstan has always welcomed observers and their constructive feedback.
Given the significant global geopolitical challenges, the upcoming vote is not just important to Kazakhstan, but to the international community as well. As a big country located between Asia and Europe, we play a key role in facilitating trade between the two regions. Given our diplomatic ties with all sides, we are also ready to contribute to the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine in any way we can. From the economic perspective, our government has also been vigorously improving Kazakhstan’s investment climate, making us the top investment destination in the region. I have no doubt that our government will continue on this path after the inauguration of the new President.