Trumping Victory of Tokayev and Re-start of Kazakhstan Political SystemKazakhstan Sector of CISS
November 20, the extraordinary presidential elections took place in Kazakhstan. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the incumbent head of the state, secured his double-digit victory winning an 81% majority.  His adversaries were able to get the voters’ support only at the level of 1-3%. The international observers (CIS Executive Committee, CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, SCO, CSTO Parliamentary Assembly, OIC, OTG, Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic States) confirmed the legitimacy of the elections.
Voter turnout in Kazakhstan (around 70%) and low level of protest voting («none of the above» candidate got about 5%) allow for calling the extraordinary elections a robust evidence of trust to both Tokayev’s figure and to his political course for building «new Kazakhstan». Immediately after the elections, the re-elected President announced the re-start of the entire political system of the country. What is Kazakhstan to expect after the presidential race, what will be results of the political reform and how will this influence the Russian-Kazakhstan relations?
Prerequisites for the victory
The November elections of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK) turned out an important final point in that stormy political power play that was agitating the country for the entire 2022. Let us remind here that in January Kazakhstan survived through a wave of massive social protest and the bloody coup d’état attempt almost causing the very Kazakhstan statehood to collapse. All these events seriously changed the political landscape: firstly, they decreased the level of influence of the first President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and his team-mates, and secondly, created the prerequisites for transforming the entire political system.
After the «tragic January» events, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev immediately became the political leader having no alternative and the center for the new consolidation of the society. Sociologists marked the dramatic growth of citizens’ trust to both Tokayev personally and to the presidency institute headed by him. All the other political institutes of Kazakhstan – the judicial and parliamentary systems, executive and law enforcement/security authorities – are way behind from the standpoint of their ratings. In fact, the incumbent President received not only the absolute supreme power, but also a huge credit of public trust for implementing a package of ambitious reforms.
It is important that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who practically had the «carte blanche» after the «tragic January» events, remained committed to the course for political system democratization proposed by him. Immediately after the turmoil was finished, Tokayev announced ambitious political changes focused on creating «the new Kazakhstan», and then in June he successfully organized the referendum about Constitutional amendments. Let us emphasize that the Constitutional reform was not prepared behind the scenes, but resulted from the meaningful dialogue between the government and the society including experts. The reform took into account the relevant needs and requests of the citizens and legalized some important novelties: establishment of the Constitutional Court, new forms of electing the parliament and the local self-government bodies – the Mejlis and maslikhats. In September, Tokayev proposed additional amendments to the RK Constitution including the presidential term reduction – only one-time election for seven years. Regional experts emphasize that the President went for reduction in his powers and limitation of his term of office for the sake of creating well-balanced and transparent governance system and forming the new political culture.
Previously it was mentioned that Kazakhstan authorities drew the appropriate lessons from the January events and tried to neutralize the prime causes – the growing poverty and archaization, as well as conflicts inside the elites. Being an experienced politician, Tokayev keenly picked up on the main demand of the society and updated it – the demand for social justice and the need of reforming the political system succumbing to stardom. Hence, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev focused his major efforts on the re-launch of state institutions and on creating the transparent public control system. Let us remind here, that his election agenda was titled «Fair Kazakhstan – for everyone and for all. Now and forever» and comprised three basic principles: fair state, fair economy, fair society.  The incumbent President started to methodically untangle the accumulated problems and to propose the constructive ways for their resolution. This ability to timely and adequately respond to the public demand for change is the first and the main factor for the political leader to win.
The second driver of this compelling victory, of course, is the prominent political figure of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev himself. He is a brilliant intellectual, a strong and experienced politician recognized both domestically and on the global arena. Being a top-level diplomat and an excellent negotiator, the leader of Kazakhstan conducted a series of meetings and summits, which provided for international legitimacy of the elections, which were recognized as fair by practically all the global players. Marat Shibutov, an analyst, highlights the valuable leadership features of Tokayev – he knows how to stay the trivial things, to make strategic decisions and to assume the responsibility. «During the three years in office, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev made numerous decisions, just like the national leader has to. But he is different from others, because many of those decisions were very difficult, which others avoided, and he also made some decisions, which dimmed his own power. Many leaders in such cases could not step outside of their egos and images, but he could», Shibutov writes in his Telegram.
The third driver of Tokayev’s victory was his impressive ability not only to consolidate the entire society «bottom-up», but to mediate the conflicts at the top level. The incoherence of the elites was demonstrated during the January coup-d’état attempt, but it was replaced by consolidation of the political class for the sake of preserving the sovereignty of Kazakhstan and resolving common problems. In the course of the election campaign, there were many talks about the possibility of the revenge by «the old timers» and forming a united opposition around one of the former political heavyweights. However, the retirees demonstrated due soundness of mind and preferred not to rock the boat in difficult times. In this relation, the observers pay special attention to a very complimentary statement by Imangali Tasmagambetov in support of Tokayev during the 2022 presidential race. The charismatic politician Tasmagambetov has always been nominated as one of the key successors of Nursultan Nazarbayev and then was viewed as a serious candidate for presidency, his words should be viewed as the evidence of the elites recognizing Tokayev a national leader for the next seven years.
The extraordinary elections rationale
We need to review the reasons underpinning Tokayev’s decision to go for the extraordinary presidential elections in November 2022 and not to wait until the end of his term in office in late 2024. Three basic factors should be identified among these reasons – the foreign policy, the social and economic factor and the domestic policy as the dominating one. The «tragic January» events induced the decisive and rigid actions by President Tokayev. The Kazakh society started viewing him as the «savior of the Motherland», and then as an intellectual leader capable of finding the way out of the political dead-end. If the incumbent authorities turned to a passive waiting mode and if the pace of internal political activity went down, this could lead to negative consequences. For example, to such as reactivation of the united Fronde comprising the pro-Western opposition, the unhappy elites and religious radicals. The materials of the on-going investigation evidence that it was this «grim cocktail» that exploded in January. President Tokayev placed a decisive bet on being proactive and won, as we can see. After the extraordinary elections were announced, the opposition could not find a single candidate, hence, could not challenge Tokayev’s leadership.
The social and economic factor was equally important. Because the growing stratification of the society and inequality in income was one of the prime causes of the «tragic January» events, social justice and fighting poverty became the meaningful agenda of Tokayev’s presidential addresses and the election campaign. At present, the Kazakhstan budget allows for implementing the urgent measures of the broad populist program, but in near future there may be problems with filling the public purse. Anti-Russian sanctions and logistical restrictions of the West may badly hurt Kazakhstan due to its close infrastructural ties with Russia. For example, more than 80% of oil exported from Kazakhstan go through the terminals of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) in Novorossiysk, which may become subject to Western embargo or even a military attack. The low-capacity route via the Caspian Sea is more complicated technically and more expensive; according to the experts, it will not be able to substitute for CPC in the next five or seven years. In the situation of all these economic uncertainties, shifting the presidential elections to the current year, which is more favorable, looks a reasonable and balanced decision.
Foreign policy was not last among the factors determining the need for extraordinary elections. Or rather – the factor of external influence on the political situation in Kazakhstan. Daniyar Ashimbayev, a political analyst from Kazakhstan, openly speaks about the January events as of a coup d’état attempt in the interests of Western stakeholders. In his opinion, the former leaders of the National Security Committee (NSC) used the following plan to destabilize the domestic situation: social protests – massive rallies given the «neutrality» of the NSC and the army – civilian revolt with participation of the organized crime and religious extremists – establishing the pro-Western «government of national confidence». The back-up scenario was radicalization and Islamization of the protest with a threat of growing into the civil war and destabilization of the entire region. The conspirators’ plans were derailed thanks to Tokayev’s decisive actions and timely interference of the CSTO forces. The shift of the elections practically deprives the external stakeholders of the possibility to plan a new interference into the internal affairs of Kazakhstan. 
The analysts highlight the important statement by Tokayev during the voting about the priority of the multi-vector policy for Kazakhstan.  In essence, the national leader publicly announced the neutrality of Kazakhstan and basing all the decisions solely on the national interests. Clearly, this choice made by Astana does not satisfy the majority of global players. They would like to see Kazakhstan as a more loyal ally, and some of them – at the forefront of the Western coalition. However, neither Russia, nor China, nor the West currently do not have effective tools of influencing the domestic political situation in Kazakhstan, as they are too busy with the conflicts around Ukraine and Taiwan. The President of Kazakhstan was efficient in using the open «window of opportunities» to organize his re-election. Figuratively speaking, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev successfully ran for presidency right in the «typhoon’s eye». This is an evidence of his accurate risk assessment and multi-vector situation analysis.
The forthcoming seven years of Tokayev’s presidency is quite a lengthy term, especially with account of the current super-speed and turbulence in the global politics. The leader of the Republic of Kazakhstan will have to use this time to cope with many challenges – from restructuring the economy currently based on exporting raw materials and creating the new logistics to massive political reform. The integral program of political modernization «from the top» is the pet project of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. All the political reforms in Kazakhstan starting from 2019 until recently were aimed at implementing this program. Erlan Karin, the Secretary of State defined the super-task of the extraordinary elections as follows: It will be not just voting for that or another candidate, but the launch of a new, more democratic model of government, the Constitutional contours of which the citizens of Kazakhstan approved in the course of the July referendum. 
Indeed, the enactment of several laws in support of the Constitutional reform was timed to the day of the election. For example, on November 17, the new provision of the law «On amendments and supplements to some legal acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan regulating the implementation of the Presidential address dated 16 March 2022». According to this new provision, all the heads of the regions (akims) and their deputies holding any positions in political parties should become non-partisan within 10 days. The same deadline is given to the Chairperson and judges of the Supreme Court and other courts, the Chairperson and members of the Central Election Commission and of the Higher Audit Chamber, as well as the Ombudsperson for termination of their membership in political parties. In fact, the old governance system is terminated – the one based on the Soviet template of the «Order of the Brothers of the Sward», where different branches of power – executive, judicial and legislative – were subordinate to the ruling political party. Ak-Orda believes, that this step will result in forming the new, drastically different political system.