Kassym-Jomart Kemeluly Tokayev (Kazakh: Қасым-Жомарт Кемелұлы Тоқаев, Qasym-Jomart Kemeluly Toqaev, [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. 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.
He was Chairman of the Senate of Kazakhstan from 11 January 2007 to 15 April 2011 and from 16 October 2013 to 19 March 2019. Tokayev served as Prime Minister of Kazakhstan from 1 October 1999 to 28 January 2002 and as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva from 12 March 2011 to 16 October 2013.
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.
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.
In 1992, Tokayev was appointed as a Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In 1993, he became First Deputy Foreign Minister and in 1994 he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Prime Minister (1999-2002)
In March 1999, he was promoted to the post of Deputy Prime Minister. In October 1999, with the endorsement of the Parliament, he was appointed Prime Minister by Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In January 2002, he resigned and was subsequently appointed Secretary of State – Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Tokayev held the post of Foreign Minister for ten years (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. Tokayev continued to serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs until January 2007 when he was elected as a Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
As Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, Tokayev was elected in 2008 Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). His view on the political system of Kazakhstan: "Strong President, authoritative Parliament, accountable Government" as he said at the Parliamentarian Conference in Nur-Sultan.
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 Speaker of the Senate becomes President until the next election. On 20 March 2019, Kassym-Jomart 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 in 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. 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.
It the aftermath of 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.
President Tokayev pledged continuity of foreign policy initiated by President 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.
Awards and honors
- Order of the Golden Eagle (2019)
- Order of Otan (2014)
- Order of Nazarbayev (2004)
- Order of Parasat (1996)
- Astana Medal Медаль «Астана»
- 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. A native speaker of Kazakh, Tokayev is also fluent in Russian, Chinese and English and has knowledge of French. He was President of the Table Tennis Federation of Kazakhstan for 13 years.