We are moving full speed ahead towards reform – POLITICO

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is the President of Kazakhstan.

In a State of the Nation address earlier this month, I announced that I would seek a democratic mandate to implement a vision for a fairer and more open Kazakhstan. And as my country heads to the polls in the months to come, I believe we must resist the instinct of withdrawal in these turbulent global times.

There is simply no viable alternative to globalization, interdependence and the rules-based international order. And while efforts to reduce dependency and improve resilience are entirely understandable – and in many cases wise – there is a delicate line to tread, as it must not lead to a broader reversal of all that is. has enabled global prosperity in recent decades.

We have a duty to mitigate risk and reduce fragility in the global system, and we must seek to achieve this by enhancing cooperation, not rejecting it.

I say this as the leader of a country on the front lines of the threats posed by global fragmentation.

Kazakhstan has always been a bridge between East and West, located in the heart of the Silk Road. We have a 7,600 kilometer border with Russia, an 1,800 kilometer border with China and extensive trade links with Europe and the rest of the world.

Throughout our history, and especially since our independence, we have always believed that disagreements with neighbors should be dealt with constructively and should not necessarily lead to a breakdown in communication, cooperation or trust.

As a result, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia more broadly, provides a strong case study of the ability of great powers to work in alignment, in pursuit of their interests that benefit the peoples of the region.

Moreover, we believe that these principles of openness and cooperation are just as valid on the international level as on the national level. Indeed, this spirit has defined the course of internal reform that my administration has charted.

And even in the face of strong international pressure, which has created difficulties in our country — and in others — we are not going to withdraw into ourselves or opt for isolation.

Instead, we are doubling down on the liberal, international and open policies that have resulted in such a dramatic increase in living standards around the world.

My country is at a crossroads. If we fail to answer the critical questions we face at this point, we risk falling into the “middle-income trap” and, in doing so, disappointing an entire generation of optimistic, energetic and ambitious young citizens.

Two weeks ago, I presented to parliament a plan for a “fair and equitable Kazakhstan”. The plan aims to decentralize decision-making, strengthen the rule of law, increase international competitiveness and ensure equal opportunities for every citizen.

It aims to fundamentally reshape our political order and move away from the “super-presidential” system, which is no longer the most effective model of governance for our nation’s ambitions.

Instead, we are decentralizing and distributing power throughout the country, strengthening the role of parliament and local authorities.

We are ushering in a new era of pluralism by abolishing unnecessary constraints on the registration and formation of political parties.

And we are drawing a line under the history of the country’s oligarchy, ensuring that the proceeds of convictions against corrupt officials flow back into the education system, recognizing that human capital is the most valuable asset.

All of these changes are helping us move towards a new model – a presidential republic model with a stronger parliament and more accountable government.

It is nothing less than a complete transformation of our national politics. Therefore, to move forward with this reform, a strong mandate is needed.

That is why I have decided to call a presidential election this fall and introduce legislation preventing all future presidents from serving more than one term.

Some observers will wonder if we can implement such ambitious reforms. However, any historical change required political courage and sacrifice. And I am well aware of the magnitude of this challenge.

I also believe that our national mindset has undergone a radical change in recent years, driven by profound social changes, by the economic and security crises in which we have found ourselves and, above all, by the recognition that we must build a fairer country and at the service of all citizens.

We have understood that if we want to avoid stagnation, we must accelerate and move at full speed towards reform.

This does not mean that we will be reckless or naive, quite the contrary. We are moving quickly, but thoughtfully and deliberately. And this applies to both our national and international approaches.

I believe that we can only move forward by recognizing that every problem, whether national or global, is a shared problem. And we can only respond to these common challenges through coherent and participatory responses.

Just as we address issues of equitable distribution, national development and economic diversification through greater openness and decentralization of power in Kazakhstan, we must also work together internationally to address the challenges of climate change, food security and energy security. Kazakhstan can and will play a role in solving all these global problems, as I clearly explained in my address to the United Nations General Assembly.

At this critical juncture, both nationally and globally, we must learn the right lessons from recent crises and seek to renew and strengthen our current trajectory, not abandon it in favor of a closed and inward-looking approach.


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