What are the reasons behind the protests that shocked Kazakhstan? | Political News

With the fire engulfing the city hall of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, protesters tore down the statue of Nazarbayev, the country’s first president, and the post-Soviet country’s image as a stable beacon in a turbulent region collapsed.

Protests rarely occur in Kazakhstan, and demonstrations are even less likely to occur in the New Year, because people spend time with their families on public holidays, and the temperature at night may drop below zero.

However, January 2 of this year marked Biggest protest Kazakhstan has become independent since 1991.

That day, there was a protest in the western town of Zanautzen against the doubling of the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which most Kazakhs use as vehicle fuel.

The price increase is because the country ended its gradual transition to electronic trading of liquefied petroleum gas to stop state subsidies for fuel and allow the market to determine prices.

In the next few days, demonstrations Expand to other Kazakh towns and villages – Sparked the most widespread protests in the country’s history – and included a wider range of dissatisfaction.

Although the government announced on Tuesday that it would reduce fuel prices to a lower level than before the increase, and on Wednesday President Tokayev disbanded his cabinet, The protest continues.

“Tokayev and the government may discuss the social and economic situation in the country, and they may decide to raise wages and social benefits in order to ease tensions. But in the end, everyone understands that the reforms will not be real,” based in Kiev Said the Kazakh political activist Daniyar Khassenov (Daniyar Khassenov).

Kazakh law enforcement officials during a protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan due to rising fuel pricesDuring the protests in Almaty, Kazakhstan, riot police officers walked to prevent demonstrators from gathering [Vladimir Tretyakov/AP Photo]

‘The old man must go’

The slogan “Shal ket!” (“The old man must go!”) has been in the mouths of protesters across Kazakhstan. This is not a secret in the hearts of Kazakhs.

Nazarbayev officially stepped down as president in 2019 and was replaced by his ally Tokayev. Nazarbayev subsequently took over as the chairman of the Security Council. It is obvious that the old ruler is not in a hurry to give up his power.

“Everyone in the country understands that Tokayev is just a nominee, and he has no political power or influence in the country. The hymn refers to the entire system established by Nazarbayev-his regime,” Kazakh Lawyer, human rights advocate and political activist Bota Jardemalie said that he was granted political asylum in Belgium in 2013.

“This means that his family, his daughter, and the state despise him. His son-in-law Timur Kulibayev monopolizes all sectors of the economy, especially oil and gas. Everyone understands that this is the monopoly behind the interest rate hike. [gas] price. “

Since independence, Kazakhstan has been one of the few successful cases of post-Soviet transformation. It has abundant natural resources, including oil, natural gas, copper, coal and uranium, and is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. It can flourish without the patronage of the former Soviet Union.

Throughout the 1990s, Nazarbayev’s main slogan was “Economy First.” He allowed the development of private enterprises while consolidating his political control to dominate the parliament.

“Then he started to take over economic sectors by sector. His family has always controlled the oil and gas industry and other natural resources, but they soon began to take over other industries such as construction, banking, telecommunications, retail, etc.,” Jardemalie said.

“Now, we have both: the political and economic monopoly of Nazarbayev and his family,” said Jadmari.

At the same time, in recent years, the government has begun to restrict individual freedom and civil rights.

Journalists and political opponents were suppressed or imprisoned, while the government launched a campaign to discredit its critics, resorting to arbitrary detention and the use of Interpol to hunt down those who left the country.

Although there have been protests in Kazakhstan in the past, especially in 2016 and 2019, this time analysts said that demonstrators, who apparently have no leader, seem determined to overthrow the Nazarbayev regime in their eyes.

“In a country rife with corruption, lack of political choice and civil liberties, fuel prices are a catalyst for mass protests, because in this country ordinary people often have trouble making a living, while the elite live a luxurious life,” Mali Said Marius Fossum. , The regional representative of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in Almaty.

“For many years, rights groups have been warning about this development-part of the reason for this crisis is that the regime continues to fail to fully engage with the people, listen to and resolve their legitimate grievances.

“On the contrary, the regime suppressed freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly, and has been suppressing dissenting opinions, leading to a certain pressure cooker situation in the country.”

‘We can change the system’

Although President Tokayev announced that Nazarbayev will step down as the chairman of the Security Council, few believe that this will satisfy the protesters. The official remarks are still confrontational.

Many places, including Almaty, have entered a state of emergency, and Internet connections in various cities in Kazakhstan have been blocked, making it difficult for the world to understand local developments.

However, it is clear that the police used tear gas and stun grenades to quell the protests, while demonstrators have begun to occupy public buildings and at least 190 people have been injured in the conflict.

Tokayev accused “economically motivated conspirators” of inciting protests.

“Don’t succumb to provocations from home and abroad,” Tokayev said on Wednesday.

“The admonition to attack civilian and military installations is absolutely illegal. This is a crime that will be punished. The authorities will not fall. We do not need conflict, but mutual trust and dialogue.”

Late Wednesday, Tokayev stated that he had sought help from the Moscow-backed Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the security alliance, to help quell what he described as protests led by “terrorists.”

“Today I call on the head of state of the Collective Security Treaty Organization to assist Kazakhstan in overcoming this terrorist threat,” he said on national television.

Although Tokayev’s words may sound ominous, protesters and victims of the regime abroad remain cautiously optimistic.

“I believe that Kazakhstan is not a failed country. We can change the system. It is only a matter of time before the regime collapses. The current regime will not be able to resolve the crisis, it can only prolong its existence,” Jardemalie said.

“But they cannot solve the problem because they are the source of the problem. The problem cannot be solved by itself.”