22 November 2022
By: Kanat Tumysh,
Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan
to the Republic of South Africa
The recent Kazakhstani presidential election, held on 20 November 2022 was a historically significant event for our country.
This election marks another milestone in what has been one of the most transformative periods in the country’s modern history.
As you may know, incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev first announced a proposal to hold the snap presidential election in His Excellency’s State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) on 1 September 2022. He explained that for the successful implementation of radical and comprehensive reforms aimed at building a Just and Fair Kazakhstan, a new mandate of trust of the people is required.
Those who have been following this year the events in Kazakhstan closely, are probably aware of the said reforms. Nevertheless, allow me to very briefly remind you of the changes that took place in Kazakhstan since the beginning of the year 2022.
Kazakhstan experienced significant challenges this January, which were a catalyst for the transformation that our country is experiencing since then. Our President used this crisis to implement major positive changes. Indeed, as Albert Einstein said once, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity”.
A key moment was the SONA by President Tokayev on 16 March 2022, in which our head of state proposed far-reaching political reforms, which required amendments to one third of the country’s Constitution. As a reflection of Kazakhstan’s democratic credentials, the amendments were put to a vote in a national referendum, which was held on 5 June. Our citizens voted overwhelmingly in favour of the amendments and the reforms. On 5 November 2022, President Tokayev publicly signed six important laws adopted following this referendum.
The entry into force of these laws is contributing to greater democratisation of the political system and a further improvement of the system of checks and balances between the branches of state power.
Key reforms that I must mention include the redistribution of powers from the president to parliament, establishment of the Constitutional Court from January 2023, simplified procedures for registering political parties, increased participation of citizens in the governance of the state, as well as further protection of human rights. Among key objectives are the decentralisation and distribution of power across the country, strengthened rule of law and equal opportunities for every citizen.
As you can see, these are substantial changes which are altering the very fabric of our society, political system, and governance. It is this swift and deep transformation that persuaded President Tokayev to call an early election. After all, it is important to give our citizens the opportunity to voice their opinion through a vote on the changes that have been taking place in our country and on the future direction of the nation.
So here we are.
This is the seventh presidential election held in Kazakhstan since our independence in 1991. Yet given the transformative year and the implemented reforms that I just outlined, it is perhaps one of the most important in our nation’s modern history.
Six candidates were running in this election with varying political views. Candidates included not only representatives of political parties, but also representatives of various associations that speak for different interests of society.
As such, many important issues have been raised over the past weeks of campaigning, as well as during the recent televised debate between the candidates and their representatives. At the same time, if any voter felt that none of the six candidates deserve his or her vote, an option “against all” was on the ballot at the election.
Significantly, for the first time in our history, two female candidates were running for president. This is another important step in Kazakhstan’s ongoing democratic development. Over many years Kazakhstan has been taking concrete steps to ensure gender equality and to promote women’s role in business and politics. We are now witnessing some fruits of these efforts.
I am sure many of you are interested in hearing about the steps being taken to ensure that this election conducted in line with the highest international standards.
In this regard, let me emphasize that the President Tokayev himself and the government ensured open, transparent, and fair election of the Head of State. Concrete steps have been taken in this direction.
For example, the presidential election was observed by ten international organisations (OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Executive Committee of the CIS, Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the CIS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Organization of Turkic States, Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic States, CICA, International Turkic Academy), representatives of foreign countries and diplomatic corps, accredited in Kazakhstan.
Specifically, 641 observers have been accredited by the Central Election Commission.
I must also note that President Tokayev himself has on numerous occasions assured conduct of the election in strict accordance with the law.
After all, the result of the election is as follows:
• Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, incumbent President of Kazakhstan – 81.31% of the vote;
• Zhiguli Dairabayev, candidate of the Auyl Party – 3.42%;
• Karakat Abden, nominated by the National Alliance of Professional Social Workers – 2.60%;
• Meiram Kazhyken, candidate of the Amanat Commonwealth of Trade Unions – 2.53%;
• Nurlan Auesbayev, candidate the National Social Democratic Party – 2.22%;
• Saltanat Tursynbekova – candidate of the Qazaq Analary – Dasturge Zhol (Kazakh mothers are a path to traditions) public association – 2.12%.
The Inauguration of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan will take place on 26 November 2022.
After that, President Tokayev intends to continue the constitutional reform and carry out fundamental changes in the country’s economy to improve the welfare of our citizens. To make all these goals a reality, our President is calling on all the Kazakhstanis to unity.
By law, the cabinet doesn’t have to resign following presidential elections. It’s only mandatory after parliamentary elections. Therefore, the Kazakhstani Cabinet will continue to work until the 2023 legislative election. At the same time, President Tokayev will make some cosmetic changes in the cabinet and other agencies.
The truly democratic election held on 20 November 2022 only provided a clear and strong mandate for the re-elected head of state to continue His Excellency’s solid package of reforms and modernisation, as the vote was a true reflection of the views of Kazakhstan’s citizens.
8 300 046 citizens cast their ballot, a turnout of 69.44%. Voting took place at 10,101 polling stations across the country, including 68 polling stations at 53 diplomatic missions of Kazakhstan around the world.
I would now like to mention a very important aspect of this election.
In his SONA on 1 September 2022, President Tokayev proposed to limit the presidential term to a single seven-year period without the right to re-election. He explained that limiting the presidential mandate to one term will ensure the maximum focus of the head of state on the strategic tasks of national development.
I cannot overstate how significant this reform is. It is unique and unprecedented in our region and well beyond. It is no secret that that historically, there has been a tendency for leaders to remain in charge for a prolonged time and to extend this period for as long as possible.
Kazakhstan has now taken a different course. I would like to stress that this rule cannot be changed again in the future. It is now a central part of our political system. A single seven-year term limit without the right to re-election is therefore a real breakthrough in developing democracy in Kazakhstan.
I truly believe that our country is in the process of something special. We have faced and overcome significant challenges and trials, implemented deep reforms, amended our Constitution, and united our nation under the banner of a Just and Fair Kazakhstan. These milestones were accomplished in the context of a very tense geopolitical situation in the world, which in itself is a major achievement. The trajectory for our country looks positive, and I have no doubt that the upcoming vote will be a key contributing factor.
Nevertheless, this election was not the end of our journey to more liberty. Parliamentary elections will be held next year (first half of 2023), which will further facilitate the positive changes we are all witnessing in our country. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will make a statement at the end of the year 2022 regarding the timeline for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Yet, even they will not mark the conclusion of Kazakhstan’s ongoing development and modernisation. This process needs to constantly evolve, considering the rapidly changing world and needs of the society.
As His late Excellency Nelson Mandela, the first democratic President of South Africa mentioned once very wisely, “We need to continue our long walk to freedom”.
Yet, we will continue to pursue this course in order to achieve our well-established objectives and priorities.