MOSCOW -- Voters in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan cast ballots Sunday on proposed constitutional changes seen as an attempt to repudiate the legacy of former strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the ex-Soviet republic for three decades.
The referendum was called by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who was installed by Kazakhstan’s governing party in January after violent demonstrations left more than 230 people dead. The protests were sparked by a steep rise in fuel prices, but came to reflect wide public discontent with a stagnant economy and authoritarian government.
Tokayev moved to sideline Nazarbayev, who had stepped down in 2019 but continued to hold powerful positions. In March, Tokayev vowed political reforms, including reducing the power of the presidency and strengthening parliament. He also called for reducing government involvement in the economy, and trying to brdige the gap between rich and poor.
The referendum included specific questions on modifications like prohibiting the death penalty and banning some officials from joining political parties. But it was broadly about support for Tokayev’s overall course.