Kazakh President Tokayev lays out constitutional reform plan

NUR-SULTAN, March 16 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed constitutional reforms to limit the powers of his office, saying Wednesday the country needed to switch from "superpresidential" rule to a presidential republic with a strong parliament.

Tokayev was elected president in 2019 with the backing of his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had resigned after running the oil-rich nation for three decades but retained sweeping powers until recently.

Nazarbayev gave up his remaining powers as the head of the security council and the leader of the ruling party during and after violent unrest in early January, and his relatives have since lost a number of influential positions in the government and state companies.

Last week, the authorities detained one of Nazarbayev's nephews in connection with an embezzlement probe, and this week a businessman with links to Nazarbayev's family was detained this week, local media reported.

Addressing the Central Asian nation's parliament, Tokayev proposed rolling back some of the legal changes that at the time helped Nazarbayev cement his grip on power. He called, in particular, for changing the parliamentary election system and re-establishing the constitutional court.

Tokayev also said he wanted to recreate three provinces that were merged with other regions in the 1990s, distance the ruling party from government and reduce the number of parliament deputies directly or indirectly appointed by the president.

Another proposed reform would make it easier to register new political parties by reducing the number of people required to establish one to 5,000 from 20,000.

Reporting by Tamara Vaal; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Alex Richardson

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