According to opinion polls, the “yes” side is heading for a clear victory in the referendum with at least 74% of the vote.
The referendum follows unrest in January, which began with peaceful demonstrations but ended with more than 230 people killed. This was when Kazakh forces together with soldiers from the Russian-led military coalition ODKB defeated them brutally.
Incumbent President Kassym-Zumart Tokayev, who is behind the referendum, says the changes will reduce the presidency’s power and increase the size of parliament.
At the same time, critical voices are raised, who believe that the changes are aimed only at “legitimizing” the Tokayev regime.
– This is a formality to consolidate the position of the current leadership. It will make no difference, says a 46-year-old man in the capital, Nur-Sultan, who does not intend to vote.
Nazarbayev ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist for 29 years before his hand-chosen successor Tokayev took power in 2019. Despite this, Nazarbayev retained the title of “leader of the nation”, giving him broad influence over the country’s politics.
According to the proposal, which seems to have been voted on, Nazarbayev will lose this status, in addition, his relatives will be prevented from holding government positions.
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