New measures to develop the political system and protect human rights in Kazakhstan

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Three reform packages of President Tokayev

The change of national leadership in Kazakhstan in March 2019 marked the end of the first crucial political chapter – 28 years long – in the history of the independent republic. It was therefore an important opportunity to consolidate these gains, reassess the relationship between state and society and reset the political system of the Central Asian country, leading to the implementation of the necessary political, social and economic transformations. to face a new generation of modern challenges.

At the same time, the first two years of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s presidency, from March 2019 to March 2021, were marked by serious trials of strength for him personally, for the government and for the country itself. The most important of these tests is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with enormous negative health, economic and social consequences in almost all areas.

In response to this crisis, President Tokayev has taken many measures to stabilize the situation and continue the country’s development.

On January 15, 2021, the President presented the newly elected deputies (Mazhilis) with a third package of political reforms. Its latest initiatives aim to further the institutional development of the political system of Kazakhstan and to strengthen the mechanisms for the protection of human rights.

Nursultan, the capital of Kazakhstan

Their implementation will facilitate the strengthening of the human rights protection system, broaden civic participation, develop parliamentarism and multiparty politics, and further democratize the country.

This third package of political reforms by President Tokayev contains eight propositions:

  • Reduce the threshold for political parties to win seats in the Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) from 7% to 5%
  • After the introduction of elections for rural akims (mayors) from 2021, Kazakhstan will then proceed with the election of district akims
  • Introduce the “against all” option in the ballot papers for all future elections
  • Legally formalize the institution of online petitions
  • Adopt an additional law on the Commissioner for Human Rights – the Ombudsman (the law will streamline the activities of this institution in various fields and sectors)
  • Strengthen the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights (including the establishment of its regional offices)
  • Implementation of the Youth Development Index to assess the effectiveness of youth policy
  • Provide measures to stimulate the activities of charities

the first package of reforms was presented at the meeting of the National Council for Public Trust on December 20, 2019. They were implemented ahead of the legislative elections that took place on January 10, 2021.

Reforms include:

  • The registration barrier for the creation of political parties has been reduced by half
  • A 30% quota was introduced for women and youth on party electoral lists
  • The institution of parliamentary opposition has been formalized and strengthened
  • The decriminalization of article 130 (defamation) and the humanization of article 174 (incitement to social discord) of the Penal Code have been initiated
  • A new law on gatherings has been implemented, making it easier to organize and participate in gatherings
  • Kazakhstan acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, abolishing the death penalty

the second package of political reforms was proposed by President Tokayev on September 1, 2020, in his address to the people of Kazakhstan. Reforms include:

  • The transition to direct elections of rural akims (mayors) from 2021
  • He was responsible for drawing up a concept for the development of local self-government and the law “On public control”
  • Creation of a single institution for online petitions
  • The need has been established to improve legislation to combat torture, human trafficking and to protect citizens (especially children) against cyberbullying
  • Tasked with acceding to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child establishing a communications procedure

It is expected in Kazakhstan that there will be a common thread running through these reforms. Their implementation will facilitate the strengthening of the human rights protection system, broaden civic participation, develop parliamentarism and multiparty politics, and further democratize the country.

The implementation of major political reforms does not happen overnight, it is recognized. This process requires careful thought. At the same time, as President Tokayev noted, Kazakhstan should not be satisfied with what has already been achieved. This is why new reforms and measures must continue to be implemented.


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