NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has suggested watering down the country’s legislation regulating public gatherings and political parties.
Addressing the National Council for Social Trust advisory body on December 20, Toqaev said that the current provision requiring public protests and other rallies to be approved by officials beforehand should be dropped.
However, organizers should still give notice to the authorities.
Toqaev also suggested to simplify the process for creating political parties in order to pave the way for the election of opposition figures in parliament, which is currently composed by members of the ruling Nur-Otan party and other pro-government politicians.
The minimum number of people required to set up a new party would be decreased from 40,000 to 20,000, according to the president.
He also said he wants to decriminalize hate speech and libel, which he said should be administrative offenses.
If approved, the proposed changes would soften some key restrictions on political freedom in the oil-rich Central Asian country.
Kazakhstan’s leadership is often criticized by human rights groups for not allowing real political opposition and for suppressing dissent and free media.
Toqaev, 66, became president after his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbaev announced his resignation in March after ruling the country for nearly 30 years.
Toqaev was inaugurated as Kazakhstan’s new president in June after a weakly contested election that was marred by what international observers called "widespread voting irregularities."
Nazarbaev, 79, continues to control social, economic, and political spheres by leading Nur-Otan and the influential Security Council.
On December 20, he traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to represent his country at a summit of the Eurasian Economic Union.
Kazakh President Suggests Reforming Rules On Protests, Political Parties