Almaty: A vote was held in Kazakhstan on Sunday for a referendum to overhaul the Constitution after January’s deadly anxiety ended the 30-year rule of founding leader Nursultan Nazarbayev over the richest countries in Central Asia. rice field. Bloodshed, born of peaceful protests against soaring car fuel prices, has killed more than 230 people and urged authorities to summon troops from Russian-led security forces. The motivation for the violent “New Kazakhstan” came from Kassym-Jomart Tokaev, a man carefully selected by Nazarbayev on behalf of the President in 2019.

Tokaev, 69, describes the referendum as a transition from the “super-presidential” rule that strengthens parliament. But the most striking change in the Constitution is that 81-year-old Nazarbayev has no special privileges. Prior to the January crisis, Tokaev was widely regarded as dominated by the shadows of Nazarbayev and his super-rich relatives. Nazarbayev retained his constitutional title of “Elbasy” or “National Leader” even after he resigned as president. This was a role that influenced policy making, regardless of formal position.

The new constitution abolishes that position. Another amendment prevents relatives of the president from retaining government status — a clear nod to the influence of Nazarbayev’s family and in-law, who lost a strong position in the aftermath of violence.

“There is never justice”

At the polling place in Almaty, the largest city, voters slowly flowed in the refreshing summer conditions with no clouds. Ayan, an 18-year-old student who votes for the first time, said he welcomed the removal of the former president from the Basic Law. “He occupies his position in our history textbooks, but the Constitution requires all citizens to be equal,” he opposed the release and vote of political prisoners after voting at college. A small group of activists protested.

In the capital Nur-Sultan, named after Nazarbayev, a 46-year-old businessman called Borat told AFP that he would not vote. “It’s formal to solidify the position of the current leader. The results will be the same,” he said. The Constitution was almost certainly passed and there were no visible “no” campaigns. Voting in Almaty and Nur-Sultan begins at 7:00 am (0100 GMT) and ends at 8:00 pm (1400 GMT). The western polling place closes at 9 pm, an hour later.

Kazakhstan’s New Year’s crisis is not well understood, with the internet shut down for several days during peak anxiety, further obscuring the event. Almaty (2,000 km (1,200 miles)) was at the center of armed conflict, looting and arson, despite protests in western oil production over the New Year’s soaring fuel prices. Nur-Sultan, formerly known as Astana, remained largely untouched.

Leadership struggle

Tokaev condemned the violence against “terrorists” trying to seize power and ordered the Kazakh army to “shoot and kill.” However, the arrest of the then Secretary of Homeland Nazarbayev for treason fueled speculation that the leadership struggle was at the center of violence.

After the restoration of stability, Tokaev criticized Nazarbayev for allowing his leaders to exacerbate inequality, acknowledging the achievements of the state-building. Both the former and current presidents are neighboring Russian allies, and the arrival of a detachment of more than 2,000 peacekeepers from Moscow-led security forces strengthened Tokaev’s control over the situation in January.

The Kremlin argued that the intervention requested by Tokaev did not extend to any political solution that was “Kazakhstan’s internal affairs.” Nazarbayev has barely appeared publicly since the crisis, but he voted in the capital on Sunday after expressing his support for Tokaev and change.

In an interview released on Monday, he said he should be “responsible” if his relatives commit a crime, but he is entitled to a fair trial. – AFP

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