Kazakhstan Reforming its Democracy and Institutions

President Nursultan Nazarbayev © Presidential Office

By Dr Shahid Qureshi:-

Democracy can only survive with strong institutions of accountability, rule of justice and welfare of the people. In the absence of the above democracy or electioneering become a ritual for the people but no change as such. Kazakhstan is an emerging and flourishing democracy in Central Asia. I believe that all counties have their own ground realities and functioning of the system of governance and so is Kazakhstan. I don’t compare their democracy with the USA or Europe because they have their own ground realities. The ultimate objectives are providing people with justice, rule of law, peace and secure life. It is all about system of governance with multiple choices and views and that is exactly Kazakhstan striving for.

In his recent address to the nation about the Constitutional Reforms President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, said:

“I address you on a fundamental issue for our country. The issue is redistribution of powers between branches of government. A special Working group was created in accordance with my decree. The group has done a great job. I was briefed on the work accomplished by the group. The upcoming reform is based on the principles of our development and the principles of modern development in general. The quintessence is that the President delegates some powers to the Parliament and the Government.

He further said: “The vertical separation of power was necessary to us in the course of overcoming the enormous difficulties of state formation. This principle justified itself. All our achievements were accomplished precisely under this system. This reform is aimed at improving the efficiency of the executive system.

He told his nation that: “We have built a new state, a new economy, and a new society. The efficiency of our development path proved right in the course of history. Marking the 25th anniversary of our independence, we talked about our achievements, including the work of the authorities, the presidential system. But the world is changing before our very eyes.

The President had complete understanding of the changing world so he said: “The speed and complexity of social processes are growing in Kazakhstan. Already today we have to think how to respond to global and regional challenges that will inevitably take place in the coming future. The essence of the proposed reform is a serious redistribution of power, democratization of the political system as a whole.

The President said: “Under the new conditions, the President’s priorities will include strategic functions, the role of supreme arbiter in the relations between the branches of government. The Head of State will also focus on the foreign policy, national security and the country’s defence. The role of the Government and the Parliament will increase significantly.”

He outlined his policy by saying that: “This work will be conducted in two key areas. First of all, it is necessary to transfer a significant part of powers in regulation of social and economic processes from the President to the Government and other executive bodies. The government, ministries and akimats (regional executive offices) will be fully responsible for this.

Delegation of powers can be achieved through changes in the relevant laws. About 40 functions can be transferred either to the Government or the Parliament. Government will introduce these amendments as a matter of priority to the Parliament for adoption before the end of the current session.

Second, a more difficult task is to balance the relationship between the branches of government on the constitutional level. It is important to strengthen the role of Parliament in the formation of Government, to enhance the responsibility of the Cabinet before the deputies.

He told people about the devolution of powers by saying: “The winning party in the parliamentary election will have a decisive influence on the formation of the Government. On this basis, it will be logical, if the government will abdicate authority to the newly elected Majilis, not the President, as it was before.

It is necessary to simplify the procedure for expression of no-confidence to the members of Government from the Houses of Parliament. This will strengthen the control of the legislature over the executive branch of power. We should also transfer the right of approval of state programs to the Government, for which it will bear full responsibility. Government should have the right to form and abolish the central executive bodies that are not included in it”.

Talking about his powers Kazak President said: “The President may waive the right to cancel or suspend the acts of the Government and the Prime Minister. All of this will increase the responsibility of the executive agencies and their officials and will give them the necessary authorities.The current rules on the possibility of adopting the presidential decrees that have the force of law have lost their relevance. It is proposed to strengthen the role of Parliament in relation to the local executive authorities.

In addition, we need to study the issue of improving the functioning of the Constitutional Council, the judiciary and the prosecutor’s office. At the same time, we need unconditional assurances for immutability of our constitutional system.

The Working Group will continue to operate; they need to thoroughly examine all of these issues and to prepare a package of proposals for further public review.

He outlined his program by informing the people of Kazakhstan: “The proposed program will help to solve three problems.

Firstly, it will help to ensure stability of the political system for years to come.

Secondly, increasing the role of the Government and the Parliament will provide a more effective mechanism of response to modern challenges.

Yes, it is a more complex control system, but also the society has become more complex. I am deliberately going to delegate a large part of the powers held by the president. And I will do it with a single purpose, which is to build a more efficient, sustainable, modern system of governance.

Third, there is no universal model of government in the world. We are all in search of it.

Informing about his vison about democracy he said: “We have never engaged in copying foreign models of government. We have been trying to find our own, often unique solutions, although there are questions where we follow international experience. Our proposed reform is based primarily on our own experience and needs of Kazakhstan.

The reform program is our answer to the question in what direction Kazakhstan will move. The answer is clear and consistent: we will move in the direction of democratic development.

Given the importance of the proposed measures, I decided to submit for public discussion draft of the constitutional reforms, which will be published. A relevant decree was issued. All of this is in line with the future development of the country and meets the five institutional reforms.

The president said and finally: “The fifth reform “Open Government” provides for a serious redistribution of powers. To ensure that all branches of government work effectively and responsibly, it is important to create an appropriate system checks and balances.”

Although it seems a ‘great step’ for the President of Kazakhstan but it is a right thing to do in the present circumstances. He must have studied democracies around the world including in the neighbourhood. He must have realised that democracy is all about respecting people’s, honour, dignity and rule of justice.

(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and chief editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He was also international election observer for Kazakhstan 2015 and 2016 and Pakistan 2002. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. He wrote his MA thesis on ‘Political Thought of Imam Khomeini’ and visited Tehran University. He is PhD in ‘Political Psychology’ also studied Law at a British University)

Views expressed are not of The London Post