Kazakhstan constitution referendum passes with 77%: Election body

Kazakhs overwhelmingly vote for constitutional changes which strip former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev of special status.

Voters in Kazakhstan have backed constitutional amendments proposed by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in the June 5 referendum, the Central Election Commission said on Monday.

It said that 77.18 percent of votes were in favour of the amendments which decentralise decision-making and strip former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev of his “leader of the nation” status. The total turnout stood at 68.06 percent.

“The referendum can be considered validated,” electoral commission chair Nurlan Abdirov said.

Even after stepping down as president, Nazarbayev retained the constitutional title of “elbasy”, or “leader of the nation” – a role that afforded him influence over policymaking regardless of his formal position.

The new constitution will exclude that status.

Another amendment prevents relatives of the president from holding government positions – a clear nod to the influence of Nazarbayev’s family and in-laws, who lost powerful positions in the aftermath of violent street protests in early January.

The January bloodshed – which grew out of peaceful protests over an increase in petrol prices – left more than 230 people dead and prompted authorities to call in troops from a Russia-led security bloc.

The drive for a “New Kazakhstan” in the wake of the violence has come from the man that Nazarbayev hand-picked to replace him as president in 2019, Tokayev.

Tokayev, 69, described the snap referendum as a shift from “super-presidential” rule.

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