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KazISS GPS: experts have discussed the Constitutional rights of citizens

On May 17, 2022 the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan held a regular meeting of the national expert platform “KazISS GPS” on “Referendum: Constitutional Rights of Citizens” in the CCS. The meeting was moderated by Yerkin Tukumov, the Director of KazISS under the President of Kazakhstan.

The most important area of constitutional amendments is human rights, new mechanisms for their protection and observance of the rule of law. Amendments to the Constitution suggest a significant strengthening of human rights mechanisms. At the same time, guarantees and mechanisms of human rights protection, as well as the status of such human rights institutions as the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Constitutional Court are enshrined at the highest level – in the Constitution.

Opening the next meeting of the national expert platform “KazISS GPS”, Yerkin Tukumov noted that according to the data of the survey conducted by KazISS, 76.4% of Kazakhstanis support the initiative of President K.K. Tokayev on holding a nationwide referendum on constitutional reforms.

“Today, as part of the work of the Republican Headquarters for Public Support of the Referendum, we are holding our next KazISS expert panel. When the head of state took office three years ago, he said that all important issues of the state would be decided only by taking into account the opinion of all citizens of Kazakhstan. This moment has arrived. In less than three weeks, for the first time in 27 years, a national referendum will be held. We will have to vote on the most important amendments to the country’s Constitution. Therefore, as soon as the head of state announced about the referendum, the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan from 9 to 12 May conducted telephone survey on the attitude of the people of Kazakhstan towards the constitutional reforms and the referendum. The sociological survey involved 1,200 respondents from the cities of Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent and 17 regions. As the results show, the vast majority of Kazakhstanis have an understanding of the importance of the ongoing changes. Thus, according to the data, 70% of Kazakhstanis are aware of the all-republican referendum on constitutional reforms to be held on June 5, 2022, and 66.4% of Kazakhstanis over 18 years of age intend to participate in it”, noted the Director of the Institute.

In her speech, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan Elvira Azimova expressed the opinion that the constitutional amendments have far-reaching consequences. “Statistics say that about 70% of citizens accept the constitutional amendments, that is, there is general support. Let’s put it in practice. We’re voting for amendments that will solidify our options. So, I encourage everyone to participate in the Republican referendum. Constitutional amendments have far-reaching implications. We must cultivate a responsible attitude to the choice of representatives of the authorities, we must learn to choose the right solutions and how we should live our lives further,” the expert stressed.

Yermek Abdrassulov, professor of the theory and history of state and law, constitutional law of the L.N. Gumilev ENU, stressed that Article 1 of the Constitution of Kazakhstan states that the main values of the Republic of Kazakhstan are a person, his life, rights and freedoms. “This principle means that all activities of the state must be subordinated to one goal – for the benefit of the people of Kazakhstan. This is also the main message of the constitutional reform. The state mechanism does not exist by itself, apart from society. Section 2 of the Constitution of Kazakhstan includes all the rights of man and citizen that are guaranteed in Kazakhstan. The reforms affect human rights and freedoms accordingly. The establishment of the Constitutional Court is very important. According to the Constitution, all rights and freedoms are guaranteed and implemented, but sometimes certain normative legal acts infringe on the rights and freedoms of citizens. In such cases the Constitutional Court will act as the highest form of justice, which can restore justice. It is very important to fix the constitutional status of the Human Rights Ombudsman. The reaction of the Ombudsman to the facts of the infringement of human rights is extremely important. In some cases, the Ombudsman will be able to appeal to the Constitutional Court to establish justice,” said Yermek Abdrassulov.

Arystan Akhpanov, professor at the Department of Criminal Law Disciplines, Faculty of Law, L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University, noted that institutional reforms are a priority in the draft amendments. “Constitutional reform – the basic element of the legal system of new Kazakhstan, it acts as a platform of evolutionary cardinal social and economic transformations. It is important to note that the priority in the draft amendments is given not to procedural, but to institutional reforms of the legal system,” shared the expert.

Political scientist Timur Shaimergenov believes that the referendum is consistent with the principles of democracy. “After the constitutional amendments, the state will be hearing and listening, as well as regularly responding to the citizens. In general, the referendum corresponds to the principles of direct democracy. All reforms will have an impact on the citizens. The success of the upcoming referendum will largely depend on the activity of the citizens themselves,” said Timur Shaimergenov.

According to Indira Aubakirova, a member of the Working Group on Amendments to the RK Constitution, Doctor of Law, Professor of KAZGUU, in the Second Republic our life will be determined by justice, law, order, unity in diversity. “A fair state is a state of equal opportunities.  And this chance is given to each resident of our country by the updated Constitution”, – says Indira Aubakirova.

As noted by Aigul Solovyova, Chairman of the Board of the Association of Ecological Organizations of Kazakhstan, the referendum will allow the people of Kazakhstan to contribute to the development of the country. “The head of state, realizing the demand from society for new transformations, decided to give the citizens themselves the opportunity to determine the future of the republic. The referendum will allow each citizen of Kazakhstan to make a personal contribution to the further development of the political structure of the country and determine a completely new system of relations between the government and society”, – said the expert..

The PhD candidate and associate professor of the Higher School of Economics at KAZGUU, Ikbolzhon Koraboyev, emphasized the importance of the legitimacy of reforms. “Constitutional reforms must meet three aspects of legitimacy: democratic, legal and scientific criteria. Only then will constitutional change contribute to the establishment of effective and efficient democratic law and constitutional order,” shared Ikbolzhon Koraboyev.

Assol Mirmanova, the head of the representative office of the Association of Professional Political Consultants in Central Asia and editor-in-chief of the Rezonans.Asia portal, noted that the reforms put to referendum and aimed at decentralizing power would increase the stability of the state through a more rapid, in some cases preventive, reaction by the executive to the changing demands of the population.

Alisher Tastenov, the head of the forecasting and research department of the Media Development Foundation, stressed that the constitutional amendments cover the main spheres of state and society. “Kazakhstan today is on the threshold of historical development. The Constitutional Court, to which citizens will be able to appeal directly, is aimed at expanding opportunities to protect their rights. The transformation of the Constitutional Council into a Constitutional Court will help ensure that every citizen can be assured that his or her rights will be protected. All constitutional amendments that are put to referendum, they are put forth as a public request for a just Kazakhstan. The Constitutional Court in this context will set the tone for the entire legal and judicial system of the country,” the expert emphasized.

At the same time, Alua Zholdybalina, the Deputy Director of KazISS under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan noted that the amendments to the Constitution also provide for a significant strengthening of human rights mechanisms. “Guarantees and mechanisms of human rights protection, as well as the status of such human rights institutions as the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Constitutional Court are enshrined at the highest level – in the Constitution. Protection of human rights is the main task of the Ombudsman and the Prosecutor General. On the basis of appeals and complaints from citizens who encounter lawlessness, imperfect legislation, they will apply directly to the Constitutional Court with a request to review compliance of laws and sub-legislative acts with the Constitution”, – says Alua Zholdybalina..

In conclusion, Yermek Toktarov, the head of the political research department of KazISS under the President of Kazakhstan, said that the younger generation of Kazakhstan expects clarity and clarity of norms governing social relations in politics. “The values of Kazakhstan’s youth are largely within the liberal paradigm. It is no exaggeration to say that this factor has also influenced the nature of the upcoming constitutional reform, based on the principles of decentralization of power and balance of powers,” – said Yermek Toktarov.