Special Report
“Qazaqstan Shutdown 2022”
E-Participation
E-Participation
Article author
Danila Bekturganov
Civil Expertise Public Foundation
No access to governmental services was available during the period of the total internet shutdown. There was no access to the electronic government website as well as to any other governmental databases.
Petitions
After the internet connection had been restored, e-government services were made accessible, for some exceptions. The information message published by eGov contained a statement on the possibility of interruptions in the provision of certain services, rendered by local governmental authorities.
By the time when gas protests outburst on the 2nd of January 2022, the instrument of electronic petitions had not been put into operation. Let us remind that the draft law “On Introduction of Amendments and Supplements to the Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the Matters of Public Control”, which regulates the process of submitting
petitions, had been brought for the consideration of the Mazhilis (the lower house of the Parliament) of the Republic of Kazakhstan on November 12, 2021. On the 21st of December 2021, the Mazhilis held an online session, where they formed a working group for further elaboration of the draft law. No specific deadlines were fixed at the session. Unfortunately, online broadcasting files are not saved at the web-resource of the Mazhilis, and there is no access to the materials of the said discussion.
After the internet had been restored, a number of petitions were published online in respect of important matters brought up after the end of the active phase of confrontation. In the absence of the legislative framework, it is difficult to estimate the efficiency of such format of submitting petitions on those matters. Anyway, the existence of these petitions and the number of signatories send an important signal to the government on the matters of the social concern after the tragic events of January 2022.
The website named Otinish (The Application), run by the Center for Applied Research “Talap”, published a petition “Dismiss the Akim of Almaty”. In this petition, addressed to the President of Kazakhstan, the demand to dismiss the akim is reasoned by the fact that Bakytzhan Sagintayev failed to control the situation in the city during the difficult times and had not appeared before the public until January 8th. The petition is authored by the user under the nickname ‘Almaty Residents’, meaning that, in fact, the author is unknown. As at 12.00 a.m. of January 24, 2022, the petition has been supported by 26478 people.
Besides, the same website hosts the petition “We demand to make cars more affordable for citizens”. This application addressed to the President of Kazakhstan is based on the public speech of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev made on the 11th of January in the Mazhilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, in which he, inter alia, spoke about the organization named ROP Operator. The petition contains specific demands: to revise the size of the recycling fee; to make new cars more affordable to the citizens of the country; to nationalize ROP Operator; and to get rid of junk cars. The author of the petition is the user with the nickname ‘Auto Enthusiasts of Kazakhstan”, meaning it is also anonymous. As at 12.00 a.m. of January 24, 2022, the petition has been supported by 5593 citizens.
Web resources www.change.org (blocked in Kazakhstan) and www.avaaz.org have published petitions to dismiss the Akim of Aktobe oblast, Ondasyn Urazalin. The publication at avaaz.org was posted as long as on the 1st of August 2021, and it is called “Dismiss Local Authorities! Akim of Aktobe Oblast Urazalin O.S.”. As at 12.00 a.m. of January 24, 2022, the petition has been signed by 2004 persons. According to the site, the author of the petition is Bibigul Zh. Another petition, published at change.org on the 17th of January 2022, is named “Dismiss Ondasyn Orazalin, Adopt the law on the elections of akims!”. It is authored by Ainura Kogai. As at 12.00 a.m. of January 24, 2022, the petition has been supported by 27 persons. The reason of the low number of signatories might reside in the above-mentioned fact that change.org is blocked at the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Both petitions are addressed to the President of Kazakhstan.
On January 13th, 2022, www.onlinepetition.kz published a petition that demands to dismiss the akim (mayor) of the city of Shymkent. It states that “the akim of the city of Shymkent, Mr. Aitenov, failed this test offered by the time of troubles and disorders” and contains a request to replace him with “a real economic person and a wise statesman, who will work to win the trust and support of the citizens of Shymkent”. It indicates that the authors are the “residents of the city of Shymkent”, and as at 12.00 a.m. of January 24, 2022, 515 persons have signed the petition. The addressee of the petition, as in all above-said cases, is Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
The maximum number of supportive signatures (223,101 as at 12.00 a.m. of January 24) has been given to the petition dated January 11, 2022, published at egov.press (this web-resource is no way related to the ‘government for citizens’ web-site) on returning back to the previous name of the capital city, namely to Astana. “Taking into consideration the mood of the public, we request the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Government, and the Parliament to restore the previous name of the capital city of our Motherland – the city of Astana”, the petition states. The author is Daniyar Burkutbayev.
On January 18, 2022, the same website published another petition “We demand to revoke the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On the First President!”. The author of the petition, Asylkhan Kenesovich Alibekov, says that a row of privileges, including his immunity, life-long security and maintenance of his financial remuneration, granted to the first president by that law are “not allowable in the free democratic society, which new Kazakhstan aims to achieve”. “Besides, sources of income of the family and other relatives of the first president cast serious concerns. All this should be subject to the lawful and fair investigation, and yet it contradicts the said law. We demand to annul that law!”, the author writes. A day later, more than 600 people supported the petition, and as at 12.00 a.m. of January 24, 2022, the petition has been signed by 45126 persons. It is addressed to the President and the Parliament of Kazakhstan.
A very interesting example of creating online-petitions is the application of public activists Asem Zhapisheva and Bella Orynbet. It is named “For the disclosure of the names of those who died and providing help to their families” and has been launched since January 16, 2022, being spread as a direct link to the Google form. Unfortunately, the functionality of the form does not allow tracking how many signatures it obtained. According to PROTENGE Telegram channel, in the afternoon of January 17, 2022, more than 1000 people signed it. The petition does not indicate any specific addressee.
Conclusions
It becomes obvious that in the absence of the legislative framework such petitions published at various portals will not be taken into consideration. However, their existence and the number of their signatories should be recognized when taking decisions, including those related to staff management.
Such websites as Otinish and onlinepetition.kz offer a possibility to post petitions without an indication of the specific author. Yet, according to article 63 of the Administrative Procedural and Process-Related Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (APPC of the RK), nameless petitions, as well as any other anonymous applications, cannot be considered even if the text of the petition is very relevant and produces a wide public response. As the laws of Kazakhstan state, any collective application (and petitions are referred to collective applications), must contain information on its author.
Through the prism of human rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression, such demand to reveal authors or participants of electronic petitions is quite disputable. However, no consensus of opinion has been achieved in the world regarding the settlement of this issue. In Kazakhstan, in light of its history of chasing social network users for ‘spreading knowingly false information’ or ‘defamation’, and alsoin the presence of the still existing criminal liability for ‘any form of impact inflicted against the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy – or his co-residing family members with the aim to deter his lawful activities”, it is not surprising that, despite the legal requirement on the disclosure of the personal data when publishing collective petitions online, users prefer to stay nameless.
The absence of the effective instrument of online petitions, which would enable citizens to submit applications on any burning issues without contrived restrictions, might have its negative role in the January crisis. Developers of the draft law “On Introduction of Amendments and Supplements to the Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the Matters of Public Control” should remember that the mechanism of submitting petitions must be as simple as possible, be considered within the shortest possible time, and be decided in the very prompt manner. Should these conditions be ignored, electronic petitions will not be able to become an instrument of rapid response to crisis situations, which may result in new unpredictable social excessive acts.
Recommendations
To the draft law developers, Parliament, and Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan:
● Revise the number of start-on signatures for its reduction to ease the submission of an electronic petition by the initiator.

● Revise the quantitative criteria for the registration of electronic petitions, considering the size of the population.

● Establish differentiated timeframes for the collection of signatures based on the level of the governmental authority, to which the electronic petition is addressed. Such timeframe should be less for local governmental authorities as the subject of the petition may lose its relevance.

● Reconsider the list of the topics, which cannot be the theme of electronic petitions, for its reduction.

● Reconsider reducing the time given for the consideration of registered electronic petitions, and also introduce a differentiated approach to determining the time period for the consideration of petitions, depending on the level of the governmental authority, to which such electronic petition is addressed.
To the owners and operators of independent platforms of online petitions:
● Until the legislative requirements are changed, avoid submitting online petitions without the indication of the specific author or nameless petitions.

● Pages of web aggregators of petitions should contain information on the use of personal data, both of the initiators of petitions and citizens who support the demands indicated therein. Besides, web aggregators should indicate a specific person, responsible for the storage of personal data.
To the civil society organizations (CSOs) of the Republic of Kazakhstan:
● Initiate a wide advocacy campaign on the information of the citizens of Kazakhstan on the draft project regarding electronic petitions and on the required changes, which would enable citizens to use the instrument of electronic petitions without any contrived restrictions.

● Create guiding documents and information resources for CSOs and activists, dedicated to electronic petitions and e-participation.

● Make efforts to increase expert resources of CSOs and activists in the field of e-participation and its instruments, including, inter alia, electronic petitions.