Co-organized by the CAMCA Forum founders:
The Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at AFPC
The CAMCA Network
The Rumsfeld Foundation
Forum on CAMCA: A New Era
Join the fall 2022 Rumsfled Foundation Central Asia, Mongolia, the Caucasus and Afghanistan (CAMCA) fellows for a presentation on the region's next chapter. From it's geostrategic location to its large and viable workforce, CAMCA countries have the potential to create a shared economic system supporting regional trade investments, labor and peacekeeping, Join the Fellows to learn how the U.S. can better interact with, and invest in, this rapidly developing region.
When: Wednesday November 9, 3:00 - 4:30 PM EST
Central Asia-Caucasus Institute in cooperation with the Development Strategy Center
Forum on Uzbekistan's Constitutional Reforms
At his inauguration after being re-elected President in November 2021, President Mirziyoyev announced the imperative of constitutional reform. This month, he presented the basic outlines of these reforms, which will be put to a nationwide referendum. The reforms intend to modernize the country’s basic law, with the aim of bolstering rights and develop the social nature of the state. A panel of Uzbek and Western experts will provide an initial analysis of these amendments and their implications.
When: Thursday July 7, 2022, 9:00-11:00 AM EST
Svante E. Cornell, Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute
Eldor Tulyakov, Executive Director, Development Strategy Center
Uzbekistan’s Reforms in Regional Perspective
Dr. Johan Engvall, Deputy Research Director at the Swedish Defence Research Agency and Senior Fellow, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute.
Constitutional Reform in the New Uzbekistan
Prof. Mirafzal Mirakulov, Doctor of Law
Judicial Reforms in the Constitutional Amendments
Mjuša Sever, Co-founder and Director of Regional Dialogue, a Slovenia-based NGO with a branch office in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The Rule of Law: Constitutional Guarantees for the Rule of Law, Protection of Personal Rights and Freedoms
Senator Shukhrat Chulliev, member of the Constitutional Commission and deputy chairman of the Judicial Committee of the Senate of Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Political Reforms in the Constitutional Amendments
Anthony Bowyer, Advisor for Europe and Eurasia, International Foundation for Electoral Systems
Improving the Constitutional Foundations of Parliamentary Control, Ensuring Freedom of Speech and Access to Information
Ilkhom Abdullaev, member of the Constitutional Commission, chairman of the Committee on Innovative Development, Information Policy and Information Technologies of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis
Social Reforms in the Constitutional Amendments
Dr. Farrukh Irnazarov, Co-Founder at RANSIF Group and Central Asian Development Institute, and Rumsfeld Fellow with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute.
Topical Issues of Building a Welfare State in the Context of Constitutional Reforms
Dr. Gulnoza Sattarova, Head of the Department of the Institute for Problems of Legislation and Parliamentary Studies under Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan
The Meaning and Implications of Uzbekistan’s Constitutional Reforms
Dr. S. Frederick Starr, Chairman, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute
By Svante Cornell and Albert Barro
June 3, 2022
The proposed constitutional changes, following five months after the greatest unrest in the country’s modern history, accelerate the efforts by the country’s president to push for controlled political reforms. The EU, while focusing on Ukraine, should continue to engage with strategically important Central Asia.
In January this year, protests over energy price hikes spread in Kazakhstan and turned violent in the country’s largest city of Almaty. This crisis displayed the growing restlessness of the Kazakh population, but also the in-fighting among the country’s elites.
It seems clear that the violence was triggered by elites that resisted President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s political reforms to safeguard their privileges.
However, President Tokayev emerged from the crisis with greater authority over the country’s governing institutions. The price to pay was calling on peacekeepers from the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
But while many believed this would leave Tokayev indebted to Russia, events since January have proven otherwise. President Tokayev has refused to endorse Russia’s war in Ukraine. At home, far from halting his reform efforts, he doubled down: On 6 March he presented a fast-tracked package of political reforms to the nation and promptly submitted it to a constitutional referendum scheduled for 5 June.
The constitutional amendments, approved on Sunday, are closely consistent with the reform initiatives promised by Tokayev in his 16 March address to the nation.
Key themes from his address that are reflected in the amendments include revisions to the president’s powers, reformatting of the representative branch of government, improvements to the electoral system, and strengthening of human rights institutions.
Recognising that much of January’s unrest arose in protest against the government’s “super-presidential” structure, Tokayev’s reforms aim to reduce the power of the presidency. The president will no longer be permitted to be connected to a political party during his tenure, and his close relatives will be forbidden from serving as senior public servants or as heads of public sector institutions. Furthermore, the president forfeits the right to cancel actions by regional mayors.
Reducing presidential power is matched with the strengthening of parliament. Presidential appointments will now require Senate approval, and the Supreme Audit Chamber, which will oversee the national budget, is to report biannually to the lower house of parliament.
Furthermore, while in the past, the upper house adopted laws, this is now shifted to the more representative lower house, reducing the senate’s role in approving laws passed in the lower chamber.
This shift is magnified by introducing a mixed electoral system for the lower house, with 30% elected in single-member districts and 70% by party lists. Steps are also being taken to lower the obstacles to forming new political parties.
The amendments address several human rights issues too. A key amendment is the establishment of a Constitutional Court to which citizens, along with the Prosecutor General and Human Rights Commissioner, can appeal directly to challenge violations of constitutional rights. The Prosecutor General and Human Rights Commissioner also receive greater independence from other state bodies or officials.
Some initiatives that President Tokayev promised in his March address to the nation are not included in the amendments. A key area is the clarification of the rights and responsibilities of the media.
One of the most pernicious criticisms of Kazakhstan’s record concerns the rights of journalists, who are often persecuted under defamation laws. Tokayev promised a draft law on the media, which will be met with great anticipation.
The changes to Kazakhstan’s political system will not turn the country into a parliamentary democracy anytime soon. They remain within the fundamental paradigm that has been President Tokayev’s intention since his election in 2019: top-led gradual change to the existing system to make government more effective and provide greater openness without losing control.
Still, compared to Tokayev’s earlier reform packages, these reforms represent a shift: earlier reforms sought mainly to make the state deliver better services to the people and shore up its legitimacy that way.
They only aimed to build participatory and competitive politics very slowly at the local level. By contrast, the current reform package indicates that President Tokayev now sees a gradual liberalisation of the political system at all levels as necessary for the system to maintain its legitimacy.
While the EU and US are preoccupied with the Ukraine war, they should pay attention to events in Central Asia. Following the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the region has largely disappeared from the sights of Western policymakers.
This is a mistake, as the region will be crucial to the long-term containment of both Russia and China. Supporting reform processes in Kazakhstan and its neighbour Uzbekistan, particularly the difficult implementation of reforms that are now on the books, would go a long way to helping stability and progress in the region.
A longer analysis of Kazakhstan’s reforms can be found here.
Svante E. Cornell is Director, and Albert Barro a Project Associate, with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council and the Stockholm-based Institute for Security and Development Policy.
Following the January 2022 crisis, President Tokayev fast-tracked a political reform package planned for later in the year, and submitted it to a nationwide referendum scheduled for June 5. The constitutional amendments accelerate the pace of reform in the country, but conditions for their implementation will not be easy given a difficult economic and geopolitical environment. These reforms represent a shift: while earlier reforms sought to build participatory and competitive politics only very slowly at the local level, the current reform package envisages a gradual liberalization of the political system at all levels in order for the system to maintain its legitimacy.When: Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 11:00-12:00 EST
Svante Cornell, Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the American Foreign Policy Council
Nargis Kassenova, Senior Fellow and Director of the Program on Central Asia at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (Harvard University) and Associate Professor at the Department of International Relations and Regional Studies of KIMEP University (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
Fred Starr, Chairman, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the American Foreign Policy Council
When: Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 11:00 AM- 12:00 PM
Join us June 15-16 for the 2022 CAMCA Regional Forum!
THEME: "New Geopolitics and Geoeconomics in CAMCA"
Forum speakers represent a wide variety of sectors and expertise across the CAMCA region and beyond...
Below is a sample of the international and U.S.-based organizations and businesses that confirmed speakers
The CAMCA (Central Asia-Mongolia-Caucasus-