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Primaries of the Nur Otan party before the elections to the Mazhilis of the parliament of #Kazakhstan



For the first time in the history of Kazakhstan, the Nur Otan party primaries will be held on the scale of country-wide intra-party elections, after which candidates for the Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament) and Maslikhat (local representative body) deputies will be elected. The elections are due to take place next year.

As is known, the government of Kazakhstan has been actively implementing political reforms in the country over the past year. For example, the Law on Peaceful Assemblies has been amended to make it easier to organise and participate in assemblies. Furthermore, the National Council of Public Trust has been established by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to further facilitate the concept of a ‘listening state’. Amendments have also been made to the Law on Elections, including lowering the threshold for registration of political parties. The organisation of Kazakhstan’s first ever primaries is another step towards democratization and openness of the political process in the country.

There are a number of benefits to holding party primaries, both for the party and the country itself. Firstly, the process facilitates the democratic process of choosing potential future candidates, as each member of the party can cast a vote for the nominees. In addition, the process is more competitive as each candidate has to convince the members that they are suitable candidates and will perform to the highest standard if elected to the Mazhilis. This means that those who display the necessary attributes to become a deputy in Parliament are likely to be selected as candidates. Ultimately, this ensures that only the top candidates are selected.

Secondly, primaries ensure that new faces have the opportunity to participate in the process. This is especially important for Kazakhstan, which has been undergoing major transformations over the last few years, including the transition of power in 2019.

The First President of Kazakhstan – the Leader of the Nation, Nursultan Nazarbayev, instructed to include at least 30 percent of women and 20 percent of young people under the age of 35 in the party lists for each Maslikhat and Mazhilis. In this regard, a unique situation this year is that for the first time in the history of Nur Otan, a certain number of women and youth will be added to the Nur Otan’s party lists.

These requirements were added to the rules for the primaries and approved by the political council of the party. The quota will empower women and their participation in political and civil processes. Kazakhstan already holds the second highest rate of female representation in parliament among the nations of the Eurasian Economic Union. This rule on quotas will further contribute to the involvement of women in politics and the decision-making process. In addition, opportunities have opened up for active and capable young people to make a career as a party member, and directly contribute to the ongoing modernisation and progress of Kazakhstan.

Today, all political parties, including Nur Otan, realise more than ever that young fellow citizens cannot just be considered as the electorate. They are also their main pool of candidates. But it is not enough to just understand this in theory. There should be new mechanisms for involving young people in the system of political governance.

One of these methods is the participation of young people in the preliminary party elections. Young members of Kazakhstan’s society are the future of the country, who will be responsible for its development and flourishment. It is therefore essential to include them in the political processes and elections as early as possible.

Initially, it was planned to hold the primaries from 30 March to 16 May. But due to the coronavirus pandemic and the quarantine measures in the country, the intra-party elections were postponed. Voting for candidates among Nur Otan members will now be held from August 17 to October 3.

The primaries include five stages:

  1. Nomination and registration of candidates;

  2. Preparation of candidates for campaigning;

  3. Campaigning;

  4. Voting;

  5. Confirmation of selected candidates.

In order to participate in the elections, the candidate must meet the following requirements: be a citizen of Kazakhstan, 25 years old or more, and permanently reside in Kazakhstan for the last 10 years.

The Party Control Committee, as well as regional and territorial commissions of party control, will oversee the conduct of the primaries.

During the primaries, voters will listen to the speeches of the Nur Otan members, as well as learn about their proposed programs and projects. Public debates will be held at conferences of regional, district and city branches. Participation in public debates is mandatory for all candidates.

It is worth noting that the public debates will provide an opportunity for the candidates to address the most pressing issues impacting Kazakhstan’s society today, including economic rehabilitation and growth following the COVID-19 pandemic, standards of living of Kazakh citizens, support for small and medium-sized businesses, the development of civil society, and other key priorities. Debating these issues during primaries means that the members of the party, as well as the public, are able to learn about the position of the potential candidates on these important issues.

According to the rules, candidates will campaign at their own expense. Financing from legal entities with foreign participation or from foreign citizens or government agencies is prohibited. On the day of the voting, one observer from each candidate may be present at the polling station.

Ultimately, the organisation of primaries by the Nur Otan party is a demonstration that Kazakhstan is willing to modernise and reform its political system to ensure pluralism of opinion, open debate and free competition. This will be a new experience at this level for the party and the country.

Nevertheless, the fact that a decision has been made to organise these primaries demonstrates that the ruling party and the authorities are confident in its abilities and the readiness of Kazakhstan to introduce this new practice. This bodes well for the future of Kazakhstan and its democracy.




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#Kazakhstan proposes 15% tax on #Bitcoin mining to help combat #Coronavirus



Kazakhstan Proposes 15% Tax on Bitcoin Mining to Help Combat Coronavirus

Kazakhstan has proposed legislation that would see a 15% tax imposed on bitcoin mining firms. This is part of efforts to raise money to help with the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Proposed by the country’s ministry of economy, the new tax plan requires bitcoin (BTC) miners to first file an application for registration with the authorities, according to a recent report by a local Russian publication.

After this, the taxpayer must then indicate the 15% tax on their annual tax calculations. The report notes that “the clause on registration makes the bill unique… the taxpayer working with cryptocurrencies stands apart from the very beginning of filing a tax return”.

Funds raised from the draft tax will be channeled toward building the infrastructure that is needed to combat COVID-19 while also giving the economy a boost. The disease has so far killed nearly 1,300 Kazakhs, with more than 100,000 infected, official data shows.

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet state in central Asia, accounts for about 8% of the global bitcoin hashrate total, says crypto research company Bitooda. Together with Iran and Russia, the country boasts the world’s third-largest BTC mining industry.

Miners are typically drawn to Kazakhstan’s cheap electricity, which averages 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

In June, Kazakh Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry Minister Askar Zhumagaliyev revealed that a total of 14 bitcoin mining companies were operating in the country’s north.

Over the next three years, the country is targeting up to $738 million of investment from crypto-related activities, particularly mining, he said.

According to the Russian publication, the Kazakh government is also planning to introduce legislation to regulate the cryptocurrency industry. The new laws are expected to set new electricity tariffs for the crypto mining sector.



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False reports of pneumonia in #Kazakhstan



Some Chinese media outlets are claiming that Kazakhstan has reported cases of unknown pneumonia, more deadly than coronavirus.  The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan officially states that this information is FALSE.

It should be noted that the WHO introduced codes for pneumonia in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), while COVID-19 is diagnosed clinically or epidemiologically, for example through the symptom of ground-glass opacity and affected lungs, and it is not laboratory confirmed.

Kazakhstan, in this regard, like other countries, monitors and keeps a record of these types of pneumonia, which enables timely management-level decisions aimed at stabilising the incidence and prevalence of the coronavirus infection.

At a briefing on July 9, the Minister of Health of Kazakhstan Alexey Tsoi spoke about the overall number of pneumonia cases in the country: bacterial, fungal, viral origin, including “viral pneumonia of unspecified etiology”, as per the ICD-10 classification.

Therefore, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan emphasizes that the Chinese media reports are FALSE.



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#Kazakhstan President Tokayev’s first year in office a success says EU



What happens in Kazakhstan also matters for the EU because the 27-member bloc is the number one investor in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan’s new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (pictured), has marked his first year in office, with a pledge to forge ahead with more reforms. Tokayev won the presidential election on 9 June 2019 with 70% of the votes, running against six other candidate.  He is widely praised for introducing far-reaching reforms in the country, the eighth largest in the world though with a population of just 20 million.

In his first major speech, the president defined his policies in all fields of the economy and society.

In the state-of-the-nation address he promised to oppose ‘unsystematic political liberalisation’ and instead carry reforms ‘without running ahead’. Crucially, a large part of his one-hour speech was devoted to improving living standards for the Kazakh people.

He also emphasised his goal of having a strong president, an influential parliament, and an accountable government. This reflects the government’s continued focus on reducing inequality in Kazakhstan and improving Kazakh citizens’ quality of life.

At the same time, the president also focused on political and economic development, including supporting micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

While much of President Tokayev’s first year in office has focused on – successfully – delivering on these promises  prioritised domestic reforms, he has also paid heed to several foreign policy priorities for Kazakhstan.

Most recently, of course, the focus has been very much on combating the ongoing health pandemic.

Last month, he admitted that this “has not been easy for our country.”  He also warned, “the crisis has not yet been completely overcome. The epidemic has not completely disappeared. A pandemic is still dangerous to public health.”

Several key issues, he believes, still need to be resolved in the near future.

First. Improving the self-sufficiency of the Kazakh economy.

Second. Kazakhstan has allocated around 1 trillion tenge for the implementation of the president’s Employment Roadmap and, following the implementation of the projects, an analysis of their socio-economic efficiency will be carried out.

Third. the construction of affordable housing will give a powerful incentive for economic development, employment growth and social support.

Fourth. the time has come, he insists, to work out the issue of introducing a progressive scale of individual income tax in respect of wages and other types of income.

Fifth. Support for national business.

Sixth. The country should switch to working directly with each capital holder to boost increased competition for foreign capital.

So, what is the verdict on his first year?

Mukhtar Tileuberdi, the minister of foreign affairs of Kazakhstan, says, “The President has been quick to implement his ideas. In his first few months in office, he has shown his commitment to promoting the development of a multi-party system, increased political competition, and pluralism of opinions in the country”.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, said that in recent months “the breadth and depth of our relationship has progressed immeasurably.”

This is partly due to the fact that president Tokayev, in March this year,  signed an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union, he said.  In doing so, Borrell notes it became the first country in Central Asia.

The Spanish official, a former president of the European parliament, adds “The European Union is the country’s biggest trade and investment partner, while Kazakhstan is by far the EU’s largest trade partner in Central Asia. What is more, we have invested heavily in strengthening governance, supporting its justice, social and economic reforms.”

Borrell says that, under the president’s tutelage, “We are turning the page and beginning an exciting new chapter.”

Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki, the Chair of the EU-Kazakhstan Friendship group in the European parliament, is equally enthusiastic, saying “In Europe, the prevailing opinion is that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in fact, is building a social welfare state, where special attention is paid to reducing inequality, improving the quality of life of every Kazakh, and where priority is given to solving the day-to-day problems of the people.”

The ECR deputy adds, “In the field of foreign policy, Kazakhstan, as has been the case before, pays special attention to its partnership with the European Union. On 1 March 2020, the European Union-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement came into force. On the basis of this document, we expect that the parties will be able to fully reap the benefits of their partnership. As EU-Kazakhstan Friendship group chair I will do my utmost to further our relations to our mutual benefit.”

But the president has also overseen a whole raft of other changes, including abolishing the death penalty and reaffirming the need to strengthen the role of the Kazakh language as a state language.

He is spearheading a rapprochement between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union and also promoted freedom of expression for his country’s 20m citizens.

The president is also intensifying efforts to attract foreign direct investment, support farmers to market their products to foreign markets and support the activities of the Astana International Finance Centre.

He has also pledged to continue to support micro, small and medium sized businesses.

Shavkat Sabirov, director of the Institute for security and cooperation in Central Asia, says there has been a damaging lack of public confidence in political leadership around the world in recent time and this has many causes.

“But,” he notes,” perhaps none is more important than the widespread belief – fairly or unfairly – of citizens that their wishes, concerns and hopes are being ignored or taken for granted by those they have put in power.

It is a charge that Kazakhstan Tokayev has shown in his first months in office that he is determined to avoid.

Since his election last year, he has made his main priority reforming state and government services so they are more responsive to the needs and ambitions of its citizens.

He has wasted no time, either, in extending as he promised opportunity to all and increasing support to those who need it most.

It is a packed agenda – and President Tokayev is promising there will be no slow-up in reforms.

Fraser Cameron, director of the Brussels-based EU/Asia Centre, is a vastly experienced and respected expert on Asian affairs and gives a decidedly upbeat assessment of the country’s new head of state.

“President Tokayev’s ambitious reforms,” says Cameron, a former senior European Commission official,”should provide a solid basis to deepen cooperation between the EU and Kazhakstan.”

According to Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, there is still room for improvement. He says, “In the field of human rights, the legacy of President Tokayev’s predecessor is very heavy and a lot of progress needs to be quickly achieved. Freedom of religion is one of those areas where some controversial laws should be revised and aligned to international standards as quite a number of peaceful Sunni Muslims have been unduly sentenced to very long prison terms. The US is putting in place a constructive policy in this regard with the establishment of the US-Kazakhstan Religious Freedom Working Group.

“Washington is also developing an Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue (ESPD) and has engaged Kazakhstan on a range of issues, such as human rights, labor and religious freedom. President Tokayev should not miss this opportunity to restore the image of his country.”

Looking to the future, there is still much more to do if the shared ambition of First President Nazarbayev and his successor of Kazakhstan joining the ranks of the world’s most developed 30 countries is to be achieved.

 

Kazakhstan/EU Factfile

  • The EU is Kazakhstan’s biggest trade partner, with almost 40% share in its total external trade.
  • Kazakhstan’s exports to the EU are heavily dominated by oil and gas which account for more than 80% of the country’s total exports.
  • Exports from the EU are dominated by machinery and transport equipment, as well as products within the manufacturing and chemicals sectors.
  • Imports from Kazakhstan greatly exceed EU exports to Kazakhstan.
  • Kazakhstan has a growing importance as an oil and gas supplier to the EU. Kazakhstan has benefited from strong foreign direct investment in recent years, largely to its oil and gas sector. Almost half of the foreign direct investment inflow comes from the EU.

 



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#Kazakhstan bars entry to South Korean nationals due to #Coronavirus


Kazakhstan will bar entry to nationals of South Korea from March 8 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, deputy industry minister Berik Kamaliyev said on Thursday (5 March), writes Tamara Vaal.

Health Care Minister Yelzhan Birtanov told the same briefing that the Central Asian nation stood ready to deport foreigners who arrived from South Korea and other countries such as China from where it has banned nationals from entering Kazakhstan due to the virus.

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