The government and constitution concentrate power in the presidency. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev became president after June 2019 elections that were marked by election-day irregularities including ballot stuffing and falsification of vote counts, according to an observation mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Former president Nursultan Nazarbayev enjoys broad, lifetime, legal authority over a range of government functions in his constitutional role as the First President. The executive branch controls the legislature and the judiciary, as well as regional and local governments. Changes or amendments to the constitution require presidential consent. On January 10, the country held elections for its lower house of parliament, the Mazhilis. Independent observers, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, stated that the elections lacked genuine competition and transparency.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs supervises the national police force, which has primary responsibility for internal security. The Committee for National Security oversees internal and border security, as well as national security, antiterrorism efforts, and the investigation and interdiction of illegal or unregistered groups such as extremist groups, military groups, political parties, religious groups, and trade unions. The committee reports directly to the president, and its chairman sits on the Security Council, chaired by First President Nazarbayev. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killing by or on behalf of the government; torture by and on behalf of the government; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; and significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association.
The government selectively prosecuted officials who committed abuses, especially in high-profile corruption cases. Nonetheless, corruption remained widespread, and impunity existed for many in positions of authority as well as for members of law enforcement agencies.