Kazakhstan’s June Referendum: Accelerating Reform
Svante E. Cornell and Albert Barro
The violence of January 2022 exposed both the demand for greater change in Kazakhstan’s society, as well as elite conflicts involving influential forces seeking to block President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s reform initiatives. As President Tokayev emerged from the crisis with greater authority over the country’s governing institutions, he fast-tracked a political reform package planned for later in the year, and submitted it to a nationwide referendum scheduled for June 5. The changes envisaged accelerate the pace of reform in the country, but remain within the fundamental paradigm of top-led gradual change to the system that has been Tokayev’s intention since his election in 2019. Conditions for their implementation will not be easy, given a difficult economic and geopolitical environment. Still, these reforms represent a shift: while earlier reforms sought to build participatory and competitive politics only very slowly at the local level, the current reform package envisages a gradual liberalization of the political system at all levels in order for the system to maintain its legitimacy.
This article was originally published on The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst’s website.
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