They are meant to take the country on the path of development and progress, while the new president has already made some path-breaking decisions.
Kazakhstan, which is at the centre of Eurasian geography, is going through a crucial reform that would shape almost all aspects of life.
The recent developments in Kazakhstan, which has played a leading role in the integration efforts of the Turkic world in the last 30 years following its independence, show that the country intends to take itself onto the path of transformation under the leadership of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Kazakhstan recently announced its adaptation of a new alphabet with Turkish input as part of the reforms and introduced the new Latin alphabet prepared with the contribution of Turkish linguists.
Talking to TRT World, Professor Ebulfez Suleymanli of Uskudar University, who is known for his scholarship in social and cultural studies of the Turkic world, said: “A very important process is taking place in Kazakhstan in the name of nationalisation.”
“During the Soviet era, Kazakhstan had a very different structure. Its ethnic identity consisted of Kazakhs and Russians. The country successfully survived this process in a patient and gradual way. There is also cross-cultural competition in the region, and Russia's cultural pressure continues. The alphabet change and the implementation of the Latin alphabet is important for its relations with the Turkic Republics. The policy of nationalisation was put into practice. It was important to ensure national unity after the Soviets,” Suleymanli told TRT World.
The reforms sped up soon after President Tokayev took charge of the country. Tokayev was elected in June 2019 as the second president of the country, replacing Kazakhstan’s founding President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
On September 1 2020, Tokayev said, “We're not stopping anywhere. We are gradually adapting our political system to the new situation.”
“Our society needs political reforms, so we will definitely continue. The main enemies of democracy are ignorance and populism. This fact must be taken into account. The successful implementation of these reforms and changes depends on the unity, patriotism and civic responsibility of all of us,” he said while reading out his official speech titled “Kazakhstan in the face of a new reality: Time For Action”.
According to Professor Suleymanli, Kazakhstan's transition from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet should not be considered only as a letter change.
“This transition is one of the first steps in the economic, cultural, and political integration of the Turkic world," Suleymanli said.
Evaluating the decision in terms of cultural integrity, the professor believes the transition of language in Kazakhstan will affect Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, and Turkmens.
“Therefore this move will be a very important path towards Turkish unity since the change in 'alphabet difference creates a psychological barrier'," he said.
As Turkey and Kazakhstan are trade partners, Suleymanli said, the common alphabet will enhance the understanding between the two nations on the matters of trade.
From a geocultural point of view, Suleymanli said Kazakhstan has the potential to attract investments from both the East and the West since it is at the centre of Eurasia.
“Geographically, it's at the intersection of West and East. These steps could facilitate its integration with the West. It is important for Kazakhstan to achieve a new balance,” Suleymanli said during an interview with TRT World.
Suleymanli also said that relations between Turkey and Kazakhstan are "important and exemplary."
"Turkey has always supported these countries in favour of their independence. In particular, alphabet change will improve cooperation both culturally, scientifically and economically,” he said.
“For a long time, there are common historiographical works in the Turkic world, the alphabet Union will help implement the thesis of unity in language, work and opinion. Kazakhstan is an important actor and power in the region, this process is very important for both Turkey and other Turkish Republics”.
What sort of reforms Tokayev wants to implement?
Tokayev, as the second president of Kazakhstan, wants to introduce new reforms along the lines of “different views, one nation, strong president-effective and Parliament-accountable government” and build a “state that hears its people”.
In this context, he was quick to establish a “Social Trust Council” to include representatives of non-governmental organizations, economists and intellectuals.
With the new council, he aims to take decisions on the most urgent and critical issues.
The council has already met more than 20 times to date. Although it is still new, the decision to amend changes to seven laws has already been implemented.
The president has also implemented some laws for the formation and diversification of the political opposition including the electoral law, the law on political parties’ situation and a package of other political reforms.
The political party law will enable the facilitation of the formation and registration of new parties. Besides, the newly announced regulations will also give people the right to gather and protest.
Amendments to the law on elections and the law on political parties has made it mandatory for the first time to include a quota of 30 percent of women and young people on party lists.
This step is also aimed at lowering the average age in the parliament, as it is in the bureaucracy. Currently, women make up 22 percent of Kazakhstan's Parliament. Forty thousand signatures that parties must collect in order to participate in the elections were reduced to twenty thousand. Moreover, in the electoral system, the proportional model will be applied.
On January 2, 2021, the death penalty was abolished. All these discussions have led to more hope for political liberalisation in Kazakhstan.
As a person who has been in important echelons of the state, Tokayev does not want an administrative understanding that is cumbersome and devoid of coordination. He has also taken steps in relation to the planning and audit functions.
According to the move, a “Strategic Planning and Reform Agency” will be established in 2021 which can make binding decisions on all state institutions and is directly subordinate to the president. The agency will be the central ring of the state planning system.