Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan has voted overwhelmingly in favor of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his dynasty’s 30-year-old constitutional reform, according to the results of a referendum held in the Central Asian country on Sunday.
“The referendum may be considered valid,” said Nurlan Abdirov, chairman of the Central Election Commission, who announced the preliminary results on Monday.
Incumbent President Qasim-Jomart Tokayev’s turnout in the referendum exceeded 68%.
Mineral and hydrocarbon-rich Kazakhstan was rocked by violence in January, killing more than 230 people.
The unrest was preceded by peaceful protests against rising fuel prices, the deadliest since the country’s independence in 1991, and then escalated into clashes between law enforcement and civilians.
Prior to the riots, the current Kazakh president, Qasim-Jomart Tokayev, 69, was widely seen as Mr. Nazarbayev, 81, who resigned in 2019, when he played a major role in the shadow.
But with the January violence marking a turning point, Mr Tokayev appears to have taken advantage of the crisis to quell the influence of his predecessor and oust some of his relatives.
The constitutional amendments, submitted in a referendum on Sunday, provide for amendments to about one-third of Kazakh basic law and, in particular, omit Mr Nazarbayev’s “Elbasi” – “head of state” title. -, a
Dignity that gives him enough authority. – The end of the age –
“We can say with confidence that the era of Elbasis is over,” political analyst Gaziz Abichev told AFP.
An amendment provides that relatives of leaders cannot occupy large government functions, a measure explicitly aimed at the Nazarbayev family.
These constitutional changes are “too small” for Inich Aitmanbekova, who came to vote on Sunday with her daughter in the country’s economic capital, Almaty.
“But we hope they are for the best,” he told AFP.
According to Mr. Tokayev, the goal of the constitutional amendment is to remove the current “super-presidential” regime, which has long been characterized by the personality culture of Nursultan Nazarbayev.
There is no “no” campaign in this state which is known to suppress any critical voice.
The exact cause of the January riots remains a mystery. They destroyed the center of Almaty but saved Nur-Sultan, the former Astana, which was renamed in 2018 in honor of Mr. Nazarbayev.
President Tokayev has accused “terrorists” of trying to seize power.
On January 8, the arrest of Karim Masimov, a close friend of Mr. Nazarbayev, then head of the National Security Council, sparked speculation about a power struggle.
After the January crisis, Mr Tokayev publicly criticized Mr Nazarbayev, accusing him of protecting “the rich”. A nephew of the former head of state, Kairat Satibaldi, was arrested in March on charges of embezzlement.
Mr Tokayev nevertheless praised the work of Nursultan Nazarbayev, a former Communist Party official who relied on hydrocarbons to build this vast country.
MM Nazarbayev and Tokayev are both in favor of closer ties with neighboring Russia, while maintaining partnerships with the West and China.
During the riots, Mr Tokayev called for help from Moscow, which sent troops as part of a military alliance to unite the two countries. The Kremlin confirmed that there was no political opposition to the intervention.
Since January, Nursultan Nazarbayev has rarely been in public. But he gave an interview on Monday in which he called for a vote to amend the constitution.