Protests in Kazakhstan in 2022

Article

January 23, 2022

The 2022 Kazakhstan Protests erupted on January 2 after a sudden and sharp rise in gas prices which, according to the Kazakhstan government, was due to high demand and price fixing. The protests started in the oil city of Zhanaozen, but quickly spread to other cities across the country, including the largest city, Almaty. Growing discontent with the government and former president Nursultan Nazarbayev also influenced larger demonstrations. As there are no popular opposition groups against the Kazakh government, the agitation seems to be directly articulated by the citizens. In response, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency in the Mangystau and Almaty region effective January 5. On the same day, Prime Minister Askar Mamin resigned, along with his cabinet. The mobilization has been touted as the biggest social upheaval since the country's independence in 1991, also causing a reversal of Kazakhstan's image as the most stable republic in Central Asia, where protests rarely take place. Despite the economic pivot, the demonstrations soon took on a political content of opposition to the post-Soviet regime marked by accusations of corruption, lifetime leadership and political repression. Protesters have been using the slogan “Shal ket!” ("The old man must go!") across the country, a reference to Nazarbayev and the social circle around him that maintains a firm grip on the country's economy and politics. As a concession, President Tokayev said that maximum gas prices of 50 tenge per liter vehicles were restored for 6 months. On January 7, he said in a statement that "constitutional order has largely been restored in all regions of the country." He also announced that he had ordered troops to use lethal force against protesters, authorizing "shoot to kill" prompts without warning to anyone demonstrating, calling the protesters "bandits and terrorists" and saying that the use of force would continue to " destroy the protests." On 11 January, the Kazakh central government claimed that the protests had been ended and order had been restored. According to the country's president, the demonstrations against his government were made by "foreign terrorists" and he claimed to have suffered a "coup attempt". With the protests over, CSO troops, led by Russia, withdrew from Kazakhstan.

Context

Kazakhstan has one of the strongest performing economies in Central Asia, with oil production accounting for a large percentage of its economic growth until the decline in oil prices in the mid-2010s. In 2012, the World Economic Forum listed the corruption as the biggest problem for doing business in the country, while the World Bank listed Kazakhstan as a corruption hotspot, along with Angola, Bolivia, Kenya, Libya. In 2013, Aftenposten quoted human rights activist and lawyer Denis Jivaga as saying that there is an "oil fund in Kazakhstan, but nobody knows how the income is spent". series of strikes and labor demonstrations. In 2011, a riot broke out in the city on the 20th anniversary of Independence Day, which led to 16 deaths and 100 injuries, according to official figures. Kazakh security forces opened fire on protesters demanding better working conditions. During that period, the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), a fuel that is mainly used to refuel vehicles in Zhanaozen, was around 30 to 35 tenge and has increased repeatedly since then, according to Eurasianet, the increase was caused by the Kazakh government's phased transition policy for LPG trading on the electronic market, which began in January

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