Caspian Region

Kazakh Leader to Seek Second Term in Snap Election

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 17, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

ALMATY (Reuters) -Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev plans to call an early election in coming months and seek a second term, he told the former Soviet republic's parliament in an annual address.


Tokayev also proposed holding snap parliamentary elections early next year in the oil-rich Central Asian nation.


The move follows the sidelining of Tokayev's predecessor and former patron Nursultan Nazarbayev amid violent unrest this year and a subsequent constitutional referendum held by Tokayev.


Tokayev was elected for a five-year term in 2019 when Nazarbayev abruptly resigned after almost three decades in power. Nazarbayev then backed Tokayev's campaign, ensuring his victory, while maintaining sweeping powers as the head of the security council and the ruling party.


However, their relationship appeared to have soured after the January unrest as Tokayev took over Nazarbayev's remaining roles and the latter's relatives left or were sacked from key public sector positions.


The upcoming election would strengthen Tokayev's mandate as an independent leader, should he win it. Tokayev has also proposed increasing the presidential term to seven years from five, while prohibiting future presidents from seeking more than one term.


Analysts say holding an early election minimises risks from a potential deterioration of the economy and loss of public support, and allows Tokayev to capitalise on moves such as arrests of businessmen close to Nazarbayev who have subsequently returned hundreds of millions of dollars to the state.


"The snap parliamentary election is necessary for Tokayev in order to purge the parliament... where some Nazarbayev loyalists still remain," said political analyst Dosym Satpayev.


In moves certain to boost public support, Tokayev announced a 17% minimal wage increase on Thursday and plans to allocate half of the investment income of the National Fund to personal accounts of children under 18 which they will then be able to use to pay for tuition or to buy homes.


The $53 billion rainy-day fund gathers a large share of revenue from Kazakhstan's dominant oil and mining sectors which it invests in foreign currencies and securities.