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Kazakh President Proposes Referendum On Constitutional Reform.

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (file photo)

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (file photo)

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has proposed holding a national referendum on constitutional reform, his office says.

Toqaev has this year advanced a number of constitutional amendments meant to decentralize decision-making in the oil-rich Central Asian state.
Toqaev told a session of the Kazakh parliament on April 29 that it would be more appropriate that citizens rather than parliament vote directly on the amendments since they will cover one-third of the constitution.
Toqaev said that the referendum represents "an important democratic institution" and recalled that "the last referendum in Kazakhstan was held in 1995, when the current constitution was approved." He did not say when the referendum would take place. In January, deadly protests that started over a fuel price hike spread across Kazakhstan because of discontent over the cronyism that had long plagued the country.

Since then, Toqaev has made several moves to distance himself from his predecessor and former patron, Nursultan Nazarbaev, who had run the Central Asian nation for decades with an iron fist and still retained the title of "elbasy," or leader of the nation -- which gave him almost limitless power even after his resignation in 2019.

One of the constitutional amendments proposed by Toqaev envisages enshrining Nazarbaev's name as "the founder of independent Kazakhstan," a move that will annul his "elbasy" title and the privileges that come with it, including full immunity for him and members of his immediate family.

With reporting by Reuters

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