Kazakhstan is an exception: a post-Soviet Central Asian state embarking on a path of democratization and liberalization in a region dominated by authoritarian neighbors.
On Sunday the country held a referendum—its first in 27 years—on potential amendments to the constitution. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said the changes, which are projected to pass, according to exit polls, would bring an end to the “super presidential” system and ultimately usher in a “Second Republic.” His predecessor,
held office for almost 30 years.
Given today’s global authoritarian renaissance, the U.S. should welcome and encourage this trajectory. Kazakhstan’s prospective transformation is in keeping with Western values. It also is in line with American strategic interests in dealing with Russia and China. Western support of Mr. Tokayev’s reform efforts would enhance Kazakhstan’s stability and promote American interests in a region of strategic importance.
If the referendum passes, it will alter 33 articles that make up more than a third of the national constitution. Changes include reducing the powers of the presidency and removing the mechanisms Mr. Nazarbayev used to exercise power unilaterally. He took office before the Soviet breakup and didn’t relinquish it until 2019. The president will no longer be a member of any political party and will no longer have…
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