06/14/2022, 12.08
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The New Kazakhstan of Tokaev

by Vladimir Rozanskij

With the approval of the new Constitution, the Kazakh President is called upon to overcome 30 years of post-Soviet immobility. Local advisory councils set up to encourage popular participation. However, control remains in the hands of politicians. Knock on effect so far is the dethronement of the "father of the fatherland" Nazarbayev.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - After the almost plebiscitary approval of constitutional amendments on 5 June, Kazakhstan's President Kasym-Žomart Tokaev is now called upon to prove that it is not just a matter of repainting institutions rusty from 30 years of post-Soviet immobility, but of bringing about profound changes that can open a path to a different future. In his message to the nation on 16 March, the president preaches the 'need for modernisation' of the country by rediscovering the 'traditions of steppe democracy, which are the foundations of our unity'.

A key instrument of this renewal in tradition, according to Tokaev, are the 'social councils' (obščestvennye sovety). These are consultative participatory bodies at the national and municipal level, which in the new constitutional concept should become increasingly important. In fact, proposals on the composition of these councils are now being addressed from the centre to the regions and local authorities, and the debate in the country is becoming more and more intense; being non-decisive bodies, however, many commentators speak of a 'decorative platform for dialogue'.

An appeal to parliamentarians made by Bekžan Kenžegulov on Facebook has had a lot of resonance: the 32-year-old agricultural entrepreneur emphasises that 'Otyrar is not just a cemetery where people come to read the Koran, it is a place where young and old live, where people work the land! Otyrar is an archaeological site near Karatau, where there are the remains of the mythical 'ghost town', which was a key stop on the Silk Road in antiquity, the centre of a large oasis and a very important political district of the Korasmian Empire, later destroyed by Genghis Khan in the early 13th century. Bekžan invited MPs to visit the village around the ruins, accompanying his post with the signatures of 135 local residents.

The entrepreneur abandoned business in the cities to return to his 'small homeland' to cultivate maize and medical herbs. With his appeal, he wants to express his concern for the survival and development of the original Kazakhstan, and wants to set an example of shared problem solving. In May, he participated in the kurultay (grand council) of agricultural workers in Nur-Sultan, trying to stimulate his colleagues from the more remote provinces to make their voices heard.

After the January riots, many governors started talking more and more about a 'new Kazakhstan' and the need to involve young people in social activities, but so far the competitions to become members of the advisory councils are run by bureaucracies without really leaving room for citizens. In Otyrar, the lists for the competitions were published in May without prominence in the press, only to find out later that they had already closed in April, with delegates controlled by the special commission of the Maskhilat, the regional parliament.

In the councils, there are no age limits, and 30% of the members are reserved for younger people who must be 'given the way', according to presidential indications, but nominations are nevertheless directed by the government and opposition parties, trying to reproduce the balances of central politics. The lack of transparency and effective openness to participation means a perpetuation of the corrupt logic that has so far prevented any real change, and it will not be easy to get out of this 'stagnation'.

After the riots at the beginning of the year, the president's administration started a work of modernisation and cleaning up all social structures, trying to free itself from the heavy legacy of the long regime of Nursultan Nazarbayev, now completely dethroned by the new Constitution. Many activists from humanitarian, youth and human rights organisations appeared, committed to defending people's rights and the struggle of the steppes between the old and the new, in the new synthesis of tradition and modernity.

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