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Developments in Kazakhstan

Developments in Kazakhstan

In the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, the public and the army are clashing in the streets. President Kassym Jomart Tokayev has also deployed foreign forces, including Russian forces, to disperse protesters protesting the dictatorial government's atrocities. Before the world resumed after the new year's celebrations, the Kazakh people had conquered major cities, including Almaty. Their slogan was simple: reduce the arbitrarily high oil prices in the country. As the agitation which started from Almaty Square spread across the country in two days, Prime Minister Askar Mamin could not hold on. The government resigned and the president declared a two-week emergency to control the situation. Furthermore, many of the demands raised by the protesters were accepted. But the protestors did not return home and the government resorted to military deployment. There have been casualties on both sides, say reports. Tens of thousands were arrested. If Tokayev has sent down the forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to control the rioting public, one must assume that the situation is indeed that bad.

The real reason for this week-long popular protest cannot be attributed to the rise in oil prices alone. Maybe that is what has driven people to the streets. Kazakhstan is an oil-rich country. But a vast majority of the population there have not received its benefits for years. Even now, the problems started with the sharp rise in the price of LPG fuel used by ordinary people for their vehicles. Rising LPG prices have also contributed to a rise in food prices. With this, the Kazakh people, who are yet to recover from the recession created by Covid, were pushed into deeper distress.

The dictatorial regime in the country was not ready to address the hardships of the starving population. The people, who lost all hope in the government, then had no choice but to turn the streets into protest grounds. The government has frozen the LPG price hike for now. Price regulations have been imposed on food products for the coming six months.

Other concessions have also been announced, including a moratorium on household goods and rent subsidies for low-income earners. Yet protests continue on the streets, making it clear that it has other dimensions.

Kazakhstan is a republic that declared independence 10 days before the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Three decades after independence, the ghosts of totalitarianism are still hovering over Kazakhstan in various forms and haunting the public. History is witness to the innumerable human rights violations under dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, who continued in the President position of the country from independence until 2019. It is true that Kazakhstan has a parliamentary democracy and holds elections. Independent election observers have revealed after each election that there has never been a transparent election in Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev, who had imposed strict controls on the media from the beginning, has repeatedly suppressed all voices for human rights. Though it has been two years since Nazarbayev stepped down, slogans against him still resound in the streets. The protesters are asking the 'old man' to leave the country.

Kassym Jomart Tokayev follows the same style of governance as Nurbayev. Meaning, though the head of government has changed, the policy continues to be the same. In the meantime, inflation hit. It has already been proven that the corruption and nepotism of the authorities are behind the oil-rich country's misery. There is no systematic opposition to present such issues to the public. In Kazakhstan, where electoral fraud is common, the ruling party has always had a brutal majority. The opposition will have only two or three per cent members. The people have no choice but to form an opposition by themselves to survive this dire situation that has been going on for 30 years and it is happening now. Come to think of it, this is the backdrop of all the popular protests the world has seen in this century. It is the need of the hour that when the dictatorship of dictatorial-fascist regimes crosses all boundaries, there must be political mobilisation of the masses. No one can ignore those voices for democracy. In that sense, there are many lessons to be learned from Kazakhstan.

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TAGS:Political crisisKazakhstanPopular protest
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