NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on December 20 suggested watering down the country’s legislation regulating public gatherings and political parties. Addressing the National Council for Social Trust advisory body, Tokayev said that the current provision requiring public protests and other rallies to be approved by officials beforehand should be dropped, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.
However, organizers should still give notice to the authorities.
Tokayev also suggested to simplify the process for creating political parties in order to pave the way for the election of opposition figures in parliament, which is currently composed by members of the ruling Nur-Otan party and other pro-government politicians.
The minimum number of people required to set up a new party would be decreased from 40,000 to 20,000, according to the president.
He also said he wants to decriminalize hate speech and libel, which he said should be administrative offenses.
If approved, the proposed changes would soften some key restrictions on political freedom in the country.
Kazakhstan’s leadership is often criticized by human rights groups for not allowing real political opposition and for suppressing dissent and free media.
Tokayev, 66, became president after his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation in March after ruling the country for nearly 30 years.
Nazarbayev, 79, continues to control social, economic, and political spheres by leading Nur-Otan and the influential Security Council.
On December 20, he traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to represent his country at a summit of the Eurasian Economic Union.