September 28. 2023. 6:46

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Kazakhstan is at the beginning of a long journey of political reform, President tells newly elected parliament

“This is just the beginning of a long journey. Reforms aimed at improving the political system will continue. This is a very important task”, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has told the members of newly elected Kazakh parliament. He pointed out that Kazakhstan is the only country in a comparable geopolitical situation carrying out such profound reforms, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

After a year of political liberalisation and constitutional reform, any thought that the pace of change in Kazakhstan was about to slow down was firmly rejected by President Tokayev in his speech opening its newly elected parliament. “Our movement towards democratisation of political processes, further increasing the participation of citizens in public administration will continue”, he said.

The President stated that there were individuals, including politicians, who saw such reforms as a threat to Kazakhstan. “But I am convinced that transformations are extremely important for the future of our nation”, he insisted. His reforms have handed enhanced powers -and responsibilities- to the members of the Mazhilis, the lower house of parliament.

He urged them to stimulate business activity, unleash the industrial potential of the country, take a fresh look at infrastructure development, pay special attention to ensuring food security and to invest in Kazakhstan’s citizens. He spoke of improving the quality of human capital, supporting the socially vulnerable and strengthening the protection of human rights.

Kazakhstan is already the Central Asian country that provides the most significant support to socially vulnerable groups. President Tokayev also singled out the need to improve the efficiency of public administration and the quality of strategic planning. The members of the Mazhilis should be on the front line every day, as he put it.

In accordance with the Constitution, the government of Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov resigned, enabling the newly elected Mazhilis to choose a new government. However, his Amanat party won the election, with 54% of the vote, giving it the right to nominate the new Prime Minister. After meeting both majority and minority leaders, as well as the Chairman of the Mazhilis, the President proposed Mr Smailov’s reappointment and he was duly re-elected.

Prime Minister Smailov’s first government had been in power for just over a year, since he took office as Kazakhstan faced the civil unrest known as Tragic January at the start of 2022. Once order was restored, President Tokayev responded with an accelerated programme of political reform, which will continue later this year with the introduction of direct elections of regional governors.


Kazakhstan’s geopolitical position, which the President referenced in his speech, is not always comfortable but is increasingly recognised as crucial by much of the rest of the world. Unusually, the Presidents of the European Commission, the European Council, China and Russia have all met Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in recent months.

Rich in natural resources that include oil, gas and rare earth metals, Kazakhstan occupies a crucial location for trade between Europe and Asia. It borders both Russia and China and is not only the geographically largest Central Asian country but includes part of the European continent in its territory.

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