Kassym-Jomart Kemeluly Tokayev (Kazakh: Қасым-Жомарт Кемелұлы Тоқаев, romanized: Qаsym-Jomаrt Kemelūly Тoqаev, [qɑˈsəm ʒɔˈmɑrt kɛˌmɛluˈlə tɔˈqɑjɪf]), born 17 May 1953 is a Kazakh politician and diplomat. He took office as the president of Kazakhstan on 20 March 2019, succeeding Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned on 19 March 2019 after 29 years in office.
|2nd President of Kazakhstan|
|Assumed office |
20 March 2019
Acting: 20 March 2019 – 12 June 2019
|Prime Minister||Askar Mamin|
|Preceded by||Nursultan Nazarbayev|
|6th Chair of the Senate|
16 October 2013 – 19 March 2019
|Preceded by||Kairat Mami|
|Succeeded by||Dariga Nazarbayeva|
11 January 2007 – 15 April 2011
|Preceded by||Nurtai Abykayev|
|Succeeded by||Kairat Mami|
|State Secretary of Kazakhstan|
29 January 2002 – 13 June 2003
|Preceded by||Abish Kekilbayev|
|Succeeded by||Imangali Tasmagambetov|
|4th Prime Minister of Kazakhstan|
12 October 1999 – 28 January 2002
Acting: 1 October 1999 – 12 October 1999
|First Deputy||Aleksandr Pavlov|
|Preceded by||Nurlan Balgimbayev|
|Succeeded by||Imangali Tasmagambetov|
|Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan|
15 March 1999 – 1 October 1999
|Prime Minister||Nurlan Balgimbayev|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
29 January 2002 – 11 January 2007
|Prime Minister||Imangali Tasmagambetov|
|Preceded by||Erlan Idrissov|
|Succeeded by||Marat Tazhin|
13 October 1994 – 12 October 1999
|Prime Minister||Akezhan Kazhegeldin|
|Preceded by||Kanat Saudabayev|
|Succeeded by||Erlan Idrissov|
|Member of the Senate|
16 October 2013 – 19 March 2019
11 January 2007 – 15 April 2011
|Chairman of the Assembly of People|
|Assumed office |
28 April 2021
|Preceded by||Nursultan Nazarbayev|
|11th Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva|
12 March 2011 – 16 October 2013
|Preceded by||Sergei Ordzhonikidze|
|Succeeded by||Michael Møller|
Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich Tokayev
17 May 1953
Alma-Ata, Kazakh SSR, Soviet Union
(now Almaty, Kazakhstan)
|Political party||Nur Otan|
|KPSS (before 1991)|
|Residence||Ak Orda Presidential Palace|
|Alma mater||Moscow State Institute of International Relations|
|Branch/service||Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan|
|Years of service||2019–present|
Tokayev began his career in 1975 when he worked as diplomat in Singapore and China. In 1992, he became the Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan where he took a position against nuclear disarmament in the former Soviet countries. In March 1999, Tokayev became the Deputy Prime Minister. In October 1999, with the endorsement of the Parliament, he was appointed as a Prime Minister by the presidential decree. From 2002, Tokayev served as Foreign Minister where he continued to play an active role in the field of nuclear non-proliferation. He then served as the Chair of the Senate of Kazakhstan from 11 January 2007 to 15 April 2011 and from 16 October 2013 to 19 March 2019 and was the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva from 12 March 2011 to 16 October 2013.
On 20 March 2019, his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned, resulting in Tokayev becoming the acting president. He announced snap elections for 9 June 2019 and shortly with the endorsement by Nazarbayev became nominee for the ruling Nur Otan. Tokayev was elected president of Kazakhstan in a snap election on 9 June 2019 with 71% of the popular vote. According to the OSCE, "significant irregularities were observed on election day, including cases of ballot box stuffing, and a disregard of counting procedures meant that an honest count could not be guaranteed." "There were widespread detentions of peaceful protesters on election day in major cities", said the OSCE in their Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions. In his inauguration, Tokayev promised a continuation of Nazarbayev's policies in the country's development and social and economic reforms. In his tenure, he signed certain reform laws aimed at democratizing the country which were criticized as still lacking in international standards.
Early life and education
Born in Almaty, his father, Kemel Tokayev (1923–1986), was a World War II veteran and a well-known Kazakh writer. His mother, Turar Shabarbayeva (1931–2000), worked at the Alma-Ata Institute of Foreign Languages. He was named after his uncle who was also a Red Army soldier and was killed during the Battle of Rzhev. When describing the impact the war had on his father, Tokayev said that he "did not like to talk about the war" and only shared his feelings upon "his first encounter with the enemy, the courage of the average soldier, and his burning desire to return home". Kemel Tokayev after the war received a medal for his coverage of the development of the Virgin Lands campaign.
From 1970, Tokayev attended the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. In his fifth year, he was sent to training courses at the Soviet embassy in China for six months.
Upon graduation from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 1975, Tokayev joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR and was posted to the Soviet Embassy in Singapore.
In 1979, he returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR. In 1983, he went to China for training courses at the Beijing Language Institute. In 1984–1985, he served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was then posted to the Soviet embassy in Beijing where he served until 1991 as Second Secretary, First Secretary, and Counsellor. In 1991, he enrolled at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR in Moscow in a training course for senior diplomats.
Deputy Foreign Minister (1992–1994)
In March 1992, Tokayev was appointed as a Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan. He took stance against nuclear disarmament in former Soviet countries of Belarus and Ukraine under pressure by Russia, causing negotiations to be held under the United Nations Security Council where he wrote “this was a significant success of Kazakh diplomacy, which was taking its first steps in the international arena, opened the way for further negotiations with all influential states at the highest level."
In 1993, he became First Deputy Foreign Minister and on 13 October 1994, Tokayev was appointed to the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Prime Minister of Kazakhstan (1999–2002)
In March 1999, Tokayev was promoted to the post of Deputy Prime Minister. In October 1999, with the endorsement of the Parliament, he was appointed as a Prime Minister by Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. During his tenure, the GDP growth rate grew by 13.5% in 2001 while the inflation rate being reduced by 11.2%.
On 20 November 2001, at the Khabar Agency broadcast, Tokayev threatened to resign from his post as the PM unless President Nursultan Nazarbayev would dismiss several government officials whom he accused of being "intriguers" such as Deputy PM Oraz Jandosov, Labour and Social Protection of the Population Minister Alikhan Baimenov, Pavlodar Regional äkim Galymzhan Zhakiyanov and Deputy Defense Minister Janat Ertlesova by trying to decentralize the country's executive branch and slow down the democratization programs. The move came just days after a group of prominent Kazakh officials whom Tokayev accused and others announced the creation of Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan at the press conference. As a result, six cabinet members, including Jandosov, Zhakiyanov and Ertlesova were dismissed by Nazarbayev.
On 28 January 2002, Tokayev resigned from his post without a full explanation, calling it a "normal event" due to "a strong presidency". He was subsequently appointed as a State Secretary and Minister of Foreign Affairs concurrently.
Foreign Minister and State Secretary (1994–1999, 2002–2007)
As a Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tokayev played an active role in the field of nuclear non-proliferation. In 1995 and 2005, he participated in the Review Conferences for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York City. In 1996, he signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in New York, and in 2005 the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in Central Asia (CANWFZ) in Semipalatinsk.
He was elected Chairman of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Tokayev took part in ten sessions of the United Nations General Assembly. He held a diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
In 2005, at the business conference of the Asian Society held in Almaty, Tokayev clashed with George Soros after his remarks about Kazakhstan sliding towards authoritarianism, calling it "unreasonable to demand from a country that recently celebrated its 13th anniversary to achieve the democratic values inherent in states with centuries-old traditions of building a free society."
Tokayev continued to serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs until January 2007 when he was elected as a Chair of the Senate of Kazakhstan.
Senate Chair (2007–2011, 2013–2019)
As Chair of the Senate of Kazakhstan, Tokayev was elected in 2008 as a Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). He served the post until being relieved on 15 April 2011 after being appointed as Director-General of the United Nations. President Nursultan Nazarbayev expressed his gratitude towards Tokayev, stating that he's "absolutely committed to the path of reforms that I am pursuing."
On 16 October 2013, he was reappointed again as the Senate Chair and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate MP's. In November 2014, at the Parliamentarian Conference in Astana, expressed his point of view on the political system of Kazakhstan was a "strong President, authoritative Parliament, accountable Government."
During the 2016 Protests against land reforms in Kazakhstan, Tokayev stressed the issue of land lease to be dealt with in a critical matter. In the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting event, Tokayev called the incident as "signature dish" of Islamic fundamentalism and took hard stance saying that terrorism must be "wiped off from the face of the earth."
After Kazakhstan unveiled its first proposed version of the Latin alphabet, it received criticism among citizens and linguistics over its use of apostrophes for marking accent letters. Many businesses and organization began adapting the new latinised script.
At the Forum of Muslim Scientists of Eurasia which was held in Astana in March 2018, Tokayev addressed the audience the need for the country to have "enlightened Islam" by strengthening science and cultural traditions in the Islamic civilization.
During the interview to BBC News in June 2018, Tokayev hinted a possibility on Nazarbayev's succession by expressing his belief that he wouldn't run for re-election as his presidential term was to end in 2020.
Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva
In March 2011, the Secretary-General of the United Nations announced the appointment of Tokayev as Under Secretary-General, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Conference on Disarmament. He served as Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament. He was also the Designated Official for safety and security of UN personnel for Switzerland.
Tokayev holds a Doctorate in Political Science. He is the author of nine books and numerous articles on international affairs. He is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, a member of the Panel of Eminent Persons at the Munich Security Conference, an Honorary Professor of Shenzhen University, an Honorary Professor and Doctor of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, as well as a member of its Board of Trustees. He is also Honorary Dean of the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations. As Director-General of UNOG, he received the "Academicus" award from the University of Geneva. According to the Russian Biographic Institution, Tokayev was admitted as a "Person of the year – 2018".
On 19 March 2019, then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation. According to the Constitution of Kazakhstan, in case of early termination of powers, the Senate Chair becomes President until the end of the previous term. On 20 March, Tokayev officially took office as president. Immediately after the inauguration, Tokayev proposed renaming the capital city of Kazakhstan after his predecessor, and the same day the Parliament of Kazakhstan approved the renaming of Astana to Nur-Sultan. Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Tokayev, inviting him to visit Moscow in a joint telephone conversation with him and Nazarbayev. The Chinese government also described Tokayev as an "old friend" and "good friend".
On 9 April 2019, Tokayev announced early elections to be held on 9 June 2019. On 23 April, Tokayev became a candidate for president following his nomination by the Nur Otan party. During the campaign, Tokayev was mocked on social media for his use of photo manipulation software to erase his wrinkles and double chin from official photos. Tokayev was elected president of Kazakhstan on 9 June with 71% of the popular vote. He was congratulated by foreign heads of state such as Xi Jinping, Ilham Aliyev, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Emomali Rahmon, and Sooronbay Jeenbekov.
Tokayev delivered his first state-of-the-nation address on 2 September 2020. The address focused on strengthening civil society and social security, supporting domestic business and economic development.
On 28 April 2021, former president Nazarbayev resigned from the post as the chairman of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan (QHA). From there, he proposed Tokayev to succeed him which was supported by the QHA members. Tokayev, in turn, suggested Nazarbayev to be named as the "Honorary Chairman", saying that the status should "rightfully belong" to him due to a "historical merit."
In October 2019, it was announced that all potential ministerial candidates needed the approval of Nazarbayev before being appointed, with the exception of Minister of Defence, Interior Minister and Foreign Minister. After the Bek Air Flight 2100 crash, Tokayev declared the following day, 28 December, a national day of mourning and said that "all those responsible will be severely punished in accordance with the law". He also ordered the suspension of the flight authorization of Bek Air, the domestic airline involved.
On 29 February 2020, in an interview to "Informburo" news agency, Tokayev commented on the fate of Mukhtar Dzhakishev: "This issue is exclusively within the competence of the court. Of course, I am aware that Dzhakishev has repeatedly applied for parole on ill-health. The session of the court of first instance will be held on 3 March. Let’s wait for its decision, which I am sure will be fair." On 3 March 2020, the Court of the Semey City upheld the motion to grant parole to Dzhakishev. He served a 14-year prison sentence since 2009.
On 15 March 2020, due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kazakhstan, President Tokayev signed a Decree on the introduction of a state of emergency in the country. The state of emergency will remain in effect from 16 March to 15 April. On 16 March 2020, during his televised address to the people of Kazakhstan, President Tokayev stressed that he had signed a special decree on measures to ensure the stability of the state functioning. These documents enable us to increase the efficiency of state bodies, strengthen the vertical of power and make all necessary decisions promptly in a manual mode.
In the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak in Kazakhstan in 2020, Tokayev ordered the cancellations of both the Nowruz celebrations as well as the military parade in honor of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
On 2 May 2020, Nazarbayev's daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva was removed from the Senate and her role as the Chair by order of President Tokayev. Many theories arose that this was a sign of either Tokayev was expanding his political influence or a growing feud between the ruling elite.
In May 2020, Tokayev signed the laws “On the procedure for organizing and holding peaceful assemblies in the Republic of Kazakhstan”, “On introducing amendments to the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan“, “On Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan”, and “On introducing amendments and additions to the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Political Parties”. The new laws are an important part of the measures to strengthen the state’s democratic foundations, and enhance the role of civil society. In his state of the nation address, he emphasised that "Kazakhstan must create a multi-party system to build a modern, effective state", also saying that the ruling Nur Otan party should collaborate more with other parties.
Tokayev advocated political reforms that would promote the concept of a "state that listens" to civil society creating a constructive dialogue. Tokayev initiated the establishment of the new National Council of Public Trust to facilitate this dialogue. He also called for direct elections for the äkıms (local heads) of rural districts, townships, and villages to be held in 2021 to which he signed decree on 14 September 2020 of the implementation of National Plan of Measures which set tasks for the drafting of constitutional amendments that would allow for rural äkım direct elections as well as the development of local government and its functions. After the 2021 legislative elections which saw three of five contesting parties retain their seats in the Mazhilis, Tokayev at the opening 1st Session of the 7th Parliament proposed to reduce the electoral threshold from 7% to 5%, stating it would encourage more registered parties to participate in the future parliamentary elections as well as the vote option "Against all" to be re-included in the ballots once again. As the Parliament ratified Tokayev's proposed constitutional amendments, he signed the laws into place on 25 May 2021.
In December 2019, Tokayev announced that Kazakhstan would join the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, after the issue was raised by Kazakh human rights activists and experts during discussions at the meetings of the National Council of Public Trust. From there, Tokayev set the task for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to start the process of joining the Second Optional Protocol which would set measures in abolishing of death penalty in the country.
At the Seventy-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tokayev spoke to the Assembly, saying that his decision was driven "to fulfill a fundamental right to life and human dignity." Kazakh Representative to the UN Kairat Umarov signed the protocol on 23 September 2020. The Parliament ratified the document on 29 December and on 2 January 2021, Tokayev signed decree in abolishing death penalty in Kazakhstan. The move received remarks from persons such as Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Marie Struthers, telling that "Kazakhstan getting closer to joining the ever-growing community of nations that have left this shameful punishment behind." while International Commission Against the Death Penalty (ICDP) President Navi Pillay called it a "historic international commitment to end the death penalty during peacetime."
Tokayev expressed support for the tackling of climate change, calling it "urgent and existential." At the Climate Ambitions Summit of which was held remotely on 12 December 2020, Tokayev pledged for Kazakhstan to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 with a development and adoption of a long term development strategy to lower emissions and de-carbonisation of the economy. He said that Kazakhstan is "highly vulnerable to climate change as a landlocked and developing state" with a heavy reliant on fossil fuels and proposed for the planting for two billion trees within the country in order increase carbon absorption and curb looming desertification problems.
In May 2021, Tokayev announced the Low-Carbon Development Concept, a national project which seeks to reduce Kazakhstan's dependency on coal by development electric power industry and the country’s energy balance by 2035.
At the teacher's conference held in August 2019, Tokayev announced that the average salary for school teachers in Kazakhstan would be increased by double within four years. He also instructed the Ministry of Education and Science to develop and launch special programs to overcome the academic gap of children from low-income families and schools in socially troubled areas, noting the need of overcome educational inequality specially between rural and urban areas.
In the third meeting of the National Council of Public Trust, Tokayev announced that the salary of university professors would too be increased and in an attempt to enhance competitiveness in the country’s higher education system, an average cost of educational grants were also increased.
In response to the environmental issues, Tokayev addressed the problems regarding the air pollution in Almaty. He instructed the government, city äkımat, and Samruk-Energy to implement final decision in the transformation of the Almaty-2 thermal power station to natural gas in order to limit harmful emissions that come from the plant which is estimated to be 30% of all other sources, warning that any delay would be "absolutely unacceptable."
Tokayev pledged continuity of foreign policy initiated by his predecessor Nazarbayev. This means the continuation of measures to attract foreign investments, multi-vector foreign policy and ensuring security in the region. In his first month in office, he had already met 4 world leaders, 2 of them abroad and the other two in Nur-Sultan. Two weeks after taking office, Tokayev visited Moscow in his first foreign state visit on 4 April, meeting with Putin alongside other Russian officials. During the visit, Putin offered Russian assistance to Tokayev in the construction of a proposed nuclear power plant in the country. On 14 April, Tokayev visited neighboring Uzbekistan for talks with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He had also received South Korean President Moon Jae In and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the month of April. On 16–17 May, Tokayev hosted foreign leaders such as Armen Sarkissian and Mamuka Bakhtadze in the capital for the 12th annual Astana Economic Forum, the first to be hosted by its pioneer, President Nazarbayev. He also hosted the regional leaders of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Tajikistan, Armenia and Moldova for the Eurasian Economic Union and Supreme Eurasian Economic Council summit on 29 May. During a visit to Kyrgyzstan in late 2019, he visited the House-Museum of Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov in Bishkek, where he met with the late writer's wife and reminisced about his first encounters with Aitmatov in Beijing in 1989.
On 4 December, on the eve of a state visit to Germany, he gave an interview to Deutsche Welle, in which he called Germany a "key European partner for Kazakhstan". In that same interview, he drew controversy by saying that he did not believe the Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation was an invasion while also saying that he believed in the "wisdom of the Russian leadership", drawing condemnation from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who issued a demarche in response.
The President maintained strong relations with Kazakhstan's strategic allies, including the United States. In June 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated President Tokayev on his one-year anniversary of presidency. In his congratulatory letter, Trump expressed his support for the reforms that had been undertaken in Kazakhstan, and reaffirmed his intention to further develop strategic partnership between the two countries.
Awards and honors
- Order of the Golden Eagle (2019)
- Order of Otan (2014)
- Order of Nazarbayev (2004)
- Order of Parasat (1996)
- Astana Medal
- Medal "25 years of independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan"
- Medal "10 years of Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan"
- Medal "10 years to the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan"
- Medal "10 years of Astana" (2018)
- Order of Honour (Russia, 2017)
- Order of Friendship (Russia, 2004)
- Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, III Degree (Ukraine, 2008)
- Commonwealth Order (Commonwealth of Independent States, 2007)
- Order of the Serbian Flag, 1st Class (2016)
- Jubilee Medal "20 Years of the Federation Council"
- Tree of Friendship Medal (CIS, 2003)
- CIS Diploma
Now divorced, Tokayev was married to Nadezhda Tokayeva, with whom he had one son. His son Timur (born in 1984) is an oil entrepreneur who currently resides in Geneva, Switzerland. His brother-in-law Temirtai Izbastin (married to Tokayev's sister Karlyga Izbastina) is currently Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Bulgaria. A native speaker of Kazakh, Tokayev is also fluent in Russian, Mandarin, and English, and has knowledge of French. He was President of the Table Tennis Federation of Kazakhstan for 13 years. He has made it a point not to mark his birthday with celebrations, with his press secretary saying in 2020 that he "does not like to celebrate this day because his family has never celebrated the birthdays of either the children and parents".
- Government of Kazakhstan
- Parliament of Kazakhstan
- Politics of Kazakhstan
- Tokayev Cabinet
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