Opinion Head

Tokayev 2.0. What will Kazakhstan be after the president’s reelection

ASTANA — Incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has won the November 20 early presidential elections in Kazakhstan. Despite the fact that Tokayev was a candidate put forward by a people’s coalition which consisted of leading political parties and several public organizations, the victory was not as easy as it might seem. The whole election campaign took place against the backdrop of strong external political pressure, the war of sanctions, and the resistance of some internal forces.

At the same time, many observers pointed out the high organizational level of the vote, which was largely transparent and without serious violations.

Tokayev’s reset

When proposing an early election, Tokayev repeated that he needed a new mandate for implementing “cardinal and comprehensive reforms” aimed at building a “just Kazakhstan.” In other words, this election was an opportunity for Tokayev to become a truly independent politician — to finally get rid of the legacy of his predecessor and the old system of coordinates.

The “just Kazakhstan” slogan was the leitmotif of Tokayev’s election campaign, his main ideology. With this slogan he travelled all over Kazakhstan and held hundreds of meetings with ordinary citizens — teachers, medical doctors, creative people, workers of large and small industrial enterprises, businesspeople, and regional government officials. He focused on the electorate that needed qualitative changes which he initiated back in 2019.

These include a package of political reforms including a new law on peaceful assembly, the introduction of a 30-percent quota for women and young people aged between 18 and 28 for inclusion in party lists during elections, reduction of the minimum number of members for registration of a political party, introduction of direct election of mayors of district centers and villages and heads of rural districts, introduction of online petitions, and others. In fact, Tokayev has taken unprecedented steps for Kazakhstan which he will be able to continue after his reelection.

Foreign-policy vector

As a former career diplomat with the knowledge of five languages and huge experience of work with the UN system, Tokayev realizes the importance of pursuing a multi-vector, pragmatic, and proactive foreign policy. As an evidence, over the past two months Kazakhstan has organized and participated in a number of high-level international events.

In October, Astana hosted a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, with the participation of leaders of 11 states. Tokayev also participated in the summit of the Organization of Turkic States in Uzbekistan. The Kazakh president also had meetings with heads of foreign diplomatic missions, the President of the European Council Charles Michel, and a number of world leaders. And that is just an incomplete list of events on Tokayev’s international agenda.

As to the relations with Russia, the Kazakh leader has been consistent in his policy, publicly declaring Kazakhstan’s refusal to recognize the “quasi-states” in the territory of Ukraine and calling to respect the territorial integrity of states and the UN Charter.

Tokayev 2.0

This presidential vote has allowed the head of state to win the broad public support for implementing his reforms. What will they be, time will show. It is now evident that Tokayev’s policy aimed at democratization of society and building of strong state institutes will remain unchanged. The country is likely to see big changes in the economy: an unprecedented support of small and medium business, a new tax policy, a change to the structure of the economy, and a revision of the existing sales markets. All these are the tasks for the next seven years, during which the new old President of Kazakhstan will be enjoying high credit of trust from the citizens, as well as support from foreign counterparts.