President Tokayev Wins Election: Why Is It Good News for Everyone?

“Groomed by Europe, feared by enemies, sure of victory” – this was how the German magazine Der Spiegel described the incumbent President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, on the eve of the presidential election, which took place on Nov. 20.

Dmitry Babich

Der Spiegel magazine is correct in its vision of Europe (and the West in general) “grooming” President Tokayev. Since Tokayev won his first election in 2019, he has shown himself to be a reliable partner and precisely the person who could provide the combination of freedom and stability that foreign investors love and foreign governors respect.

Tokayev took resolute action against the attempted coup d’etat at the beginning of 2022, but he also revealed himself as a Democrat and a forgiving person. Several amnesties eased the punishment for the so-called “January protesters” (an expression of Western press), except those who took direct part in murders, setting government buildings on fire, and other terrorist acts. So, one can make a minor correction to the appraisal of Der Spiegel magazine: “Tokayev’s enemies” should not fear the President personally, but instead the law and the democratic order that can protect themselves without resorting to dictatorial methods.

President Tokayev is a democrat, and the election and recent amendments to the Constitution of Kazakhstan revealed the democratic nature of his rule.

From now on, the President is re-elected for the next seven years, and future candidates will also vie for seven years long terms. Still, neither Tokayev himself nor his successors – neither of them will have the opportunity to run for the second term. Since the suggestion of this new system (which makes one remember the constitutional reform of General de Gaulle in France, who also introduced the seven years long term for presidents after his victory in 1958) came from President Tokayev himself, one can make the logical conclusion: the President is not seeking “special powers” for himself, and he is not afraid of responsibility.

If he had been afraid, he would have left himself some “loophole” that would allow him to stay in power after the expiration of his current mandate in 2029, thus blocking any possible investigations or court verdicts in the future.

Tokayev chose the democratic way because he wanted to avoid the “monopolization of power,” which is a natural product of the “super-presidential” model that had existed in Kazakhstan before.

“A strong president, an influential parliament, and an influential government” – such is the formula for success suggested by Tokayev. And the people supported this formula wholeheartedly.

Foreign business shares this enthusiasm of the people. More than 69 percent of European and American business leaders with investments in Kazakhstan, according to a YouGov survey, believe that the recently adopted pro-democracy reforms will be good for their business in the republic. Moreover, they think that the reforms have already “made Kazakhstan a more attractive investment opportunity,” YahooFinance reports.  

In the badly divided world of today, the success of democracy in Kazakhstan is good news for everyone. Let us remind our readers that Kazakhstan, under President Tokayev, is the only country in the former Soviet Union (and one of very few in the world) that managed to retain good relations with all four central poles of today’s world: the U.S., the EU, Russia, and China. In this context, the reassuring words of President Tokayev about the “continuation of the multi-vector approach” in Astana’s foreign policy can also be viewed as a sign of continued allegiance to the idea of a multipolar world.

The author is Dmitry Babich, a Moscow-based journalist with 30 years of experience covering global politics, and a frequent guest on BBC, Al Jazeera, and RT. 

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