In January 2022, demonstrations in Kazakhstan began as protests in far western regions against increases in transportation fuel, and as protests spread to Almaty, the country’s largest city, they grew into calls for major political change. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and other officials eventually acknowledged the social and political underpinnings of the protests, and pledged to respond to protesters’ demands by initiating expansive reforms.

In March 2022, President Tokayev laid out his New Kazakhstan program, a set of reforms he said would make the government more responsive to its citizens and their needs. The proposed political reforms included strengthening representative governance, combatting corruption, improving the electoral system, establishing a Constitutional Court, and decentralization. Astana continues to tout its reform program as Kazakhstanis head to the polls on March 19 in new parliamentary elections. Yet observers say it’s still unclear how expansive these reform efforts will be, and if they will address the root concerns and discontent which sparked the mass protests in January 2022.

The Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and Freedom Now host a discussion on Kazakhstan’s reform agenda. What progress has Kazakhstan made on President Tokayev’s reform agenda? How can Kazakhstan’s civil society help make reforms more responsive to public demands for change? How can the US and Kazakhstan’s other international partners support and encourage reform in the country?


Vyacheslav Abramov
Founder and Editor

Ariel Cohen
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center
Atlantic Council;
Program Director and Senior Fellow
International Tax and Investment Center

Ambassador William Courtney
Adjunct Senior Fellow
RAND Corporation;
Former US Ambassador to Kazakhstan

Nargis Kassenova
Senior Fellow; Director, Program on Central Asia
Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies

Yerkin Tukumov
Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan


Introductory remarks

Matthew Schaaf
Advocacy Director
Freedom Now

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The Eurasia Center’s mission is to promote policies that strengthen stability, democratic values, and prosperity in Eurasia, from Eastern Europe in the West to the Caucasus, Russia, and Central Asia in the East.