ASTANA – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree on constitutional amendments on Sept. 17 that officially restores the former name of the Kazakh capital city – Astana, and limits presidential tenure by a single non-renewable seven-year term, reported the presidential press service. The change is effective immediately.
Astana became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997 after First President Nazarbayev decided to relocate the capital from Almaty, the country’s largest city. The city was renamed to Nur-Sultan in March 2019.
The amended Constitution also limits the presidential tenure to a seven-year term, from the current five, and prohibits re-election for any candidate. The initiative was announced in his Sept. 1 state-of-the-nation address, where he also called for early presidential elections. The single-term limit for a popularly elected head of state has no precedent among the post-Soviet states, with similar arrangements known in South Korea, Mexico, and Colombia.
Commenting on the amendments, State Counselor Erlan Karin said it “marks the transition of Kazakhstan to a new democratic political model.”
“This package of reforms should be considered in conjunction with the previously implemented constitutional reform: the creation of a new institution of the Constitutional Court, the limiting of presidential powers while expanding the powers of Parliament, the introduction of a mixed electoral system, simplification of party registration procedures, and increased independence of the regions,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.
The amendments, he noted, close the process of “transforming the political system” under which the nation’s main political institutions – the President, the Parliament, maslikhats (local representative bodies), and the government – must be restarted.
The first stage in doing so, according to Karin, will be the presidential elections. The date, however, is yet to be announced.