September 6, 2019 / 5:41 AM / 17 days ago

Kazakh president rejects calls for parliamentary republic

FILE PHOTO: Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivers a speech during his inauguration ceremony in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov/File Photo

NUR-SULTAN (Reuters) - Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Friday rejected calls for a switch to a parliamentary republic made by opposition activists at recent public protests, but promised to give the Central Asian nation’s parliament a greater role.

Tokayev took over the oil-rich former Soviet republic this year, when his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned after nearly three decades in power, and some groups have urged him to dismantle the highly centralized political system.

“I am convinced that Kazakhstan must remain a presidential republic, but the parliament will assume a worthy role in the political system,” Tokayev said at a meeting with opposition activists and public figures picked by his government to join a newly-established National Council of Public Confidence.

Tokayev said he wanted to boost political competition by amending electoral laws and give the parliament a bigger say in major decisions.

The Nur Otan party led by Nazarbayev holds more than 80 seats in the 107-seat lower house of parliament, which mostly rubberstamps legislation drafted by the government. The next parliamentary election is due next year.

Nazarbayev’s daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva is the speaker of parliament’s upper house.

Reporting by Tamara Vaal; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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