NEW DELHI: Political reforms are being initiated in key Central Asian states. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev recently announced a package of significant political reforms, including on sensitive issues like public assembly, during the second meeting of the National Council of Public Trust, held December 20 in the capital Nursultan or what is formerly called Astana.
“We are overcoming the fear of alternative opinion. The government does not believe that disagreement is a destructive or socially dangerous phenomenon,” Tokayev told the council meeting.
The council reflects his idea of “different opinions – one nation.” he noted.
“This is not just a slogan or idea, but a real action. The first meeting shaped the agenda of the national council. All suggestions and initiatives were taken into account. The relevant mechanisms and procedures were launched. Work continues,” he said.
Earlier after being voted to power the Uzbek President had initiated a series of reforms including holding successful parliamentary polls last Sunday.
The state demonstrated its political will to achieve concrete results in what Tokayev described as an “extremely sensitive area,” refuting the many experts who expected the topic to take a back seat in the council’s work.
“There should be no doubt as to the need for political modernisation, which I said in my state-of-the-nation address,” the Kazakh President said.
Once the law is passed, peaceful rallies will require notification to the relevant authorities only, rather than going through a permission process. Tokayev noted that a “culture of rallies” should be cultivated among people.
“It is time for both society and the state to adequately relate to the public expression of position. This is inevitable and it is better to approach it on its own, consciously, and not under pressure. We need to understand that rallies are not only a right, but a responsibility,” said Tokayev.
The bill, which the President said will be a “completely new law, will clearly define all forms of peaceful rallies, determine the competency of local executive bodies to identify the sites and such terms as a status of an organiser, participant and observers as well as their rights and duties.”
The threshold to form a political party will be reduced from 40,000 people to 20,000 people in an effort to reduce barriers to equal political participation and expand opportunities for civic engagement. Tokayev said the law on parties and elections should also be gradually changed.
“We need to understand the main condition for a new social paradigm – the presence of alternative views and opinions. In past years, there were active citizens taking part in tackling a wide range of social and economic problems. We understood that alternative opinions and public debate do not lead to stagnation, but, on the contrary, are some of the main requirements for development,” Tokayev said, emphasising the need to expand the presence of political minorities in Kazakhstan’s Parliament.
Political parties will also be obliged to have women and youth make up at least 30 percent of their lists, to help amplify those voices in decision-making processes.
“We need to create not only social elevators for young people, but also political ones, to pass the torch of independence to new generations of patriots,” said Tokayev.
The quota will also encourage political parties to more be more active in their work with different social groups.
Tokayev also instructed the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs to start procedures to join the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at abolishing the death penalty. Kazakhstan has maintained a moratorium on capital punishment since December 2003.
Tokayev said the government is aware of the demand for further political changes. “Democracy should serve development and creativity, and not estrangement and collapse. We will build our work based on the highest development goals. There should be no place for populism,” he said.
The Kazakh President supported the idea of including civil society representatives on the boards of directors of socially significant enterprises in the quasi public sector. The government will complete the selection procedures and propose candidacies for those roles by March 1.
“In addition to my instruction to reduce the number of companies in the quasi public sector, which are often staff-bloated, work needs to be done to reduce the economic involvement of active state companies in competitive markets,” said Tokayev.
The country’s foreign workers quota will also be reduced by 40 percent next year from 49,000 to 29,000. The government will continue work to prevent discrimination against local workers by foreign employers.
Source: Economic Times