Sunday, January 16

Protests in Kazakhstan: the president sacks his government

Kazakhstan’s president sacked his government on Wednesday in response to protests in an oil-rich province in the central Asian country over unrest over rising gas prices.

A decree published on the presidential website indicates that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has accepted the resignation of the government headed by Prime Minister Askar Mamin. Deputy Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov will assume the role of Acting Prime Minister until a new cabinet is formed.

The day before, the Head of State had declared a state of emergency, from January 5 and until January 19, in this oil-producing region of Mangystau and in Almaty, the economic capital, in the south-east of the country. . A curfew will be established from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. local time.

“Do not respond to provocations from abroad and from within the country. Do not respond to calls to storm official buildings. It is a crime for which you would be punished,” said the head of the 68-year-old state, which has ruled the country since 2019.

Police used stun grenades and tear gas in Almaty on Tuesday to disperse a demonstration against rising gas prices that had gathered several thousand people, shouting “the old man out!” and “resignation of the government!”.

Mr. Tokayev was chosen as his successor by the historic leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, who ruled Kazakhstan for 30 years from 1989 and retains influence.

This demonstration, in an authoritarian country where this type of gathering is rare, follows a movement of anger that has erupted in several cities since Sunday.

Khazakstan, Central Asia’s largest economy accustomed in the past to double-digit growth rates, is suffering from falling oil prices and the economic crisis in Russia, which has led to the devaluation of the Kazakh tenge and a strong inflation.

– Shots to disperse –

Two AFP journalists, who saw police fire on Tuesday to disperse the crowd in Almaty, counted at least 5,000 participants in this demonstration. WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal messengers were inaccessible overnight.

The anger began on Sunday, after a rise in the prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG), in the city of Janaozen, in the west of the country rich in natural resources, before spreading to the large regional city of ‘Aktau, on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

On Tuesday evening, the authorities tried to calm the situation by conceding a reduction in the price of LNG, fixing it at 50 tenges (0.1 euro) per liter in the region, against 120 at the start of the year.

However, this promise did not lead to the dispersal of the demonstrators, who demanded to speak to the president.

Janaozen was in the past the scene of the deadliest unrest to have shaken Kazakhstan since its independence from the USSR in 1991. In 2011, at least 14 workers at an oil site were killed when police cracked down on a protest against working conditions and wages.

The Mangystau region, where the city of Janaozen is located, depends on LNG as the main source of fuel for cars and any rise in its price leads to that of food products, already on the rise since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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