Kazakhstan declares state of emergency amid violent fuel protests

Wednesday - 05/01/2022 06:30
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the government's resignation on Wednesday and declared a state of emergency in the capital and other parts of the country amid violent protests triggered by a fuel price increase in the oil-rich Central Asian nation.

Thousands of protesters marched towards the centre of Almaty, the former Soviet republic's biggest city, as news of the government's resignation failed to quell mounting anger over fuel prices. Security forces fired tear gas and flashbang grenades at demonstrators but were unable to stop them.

Protesters armed with clubs and metal bars stormed into the mayor's office, according to local media, while Kazakhstan's business lobby group said its members were reporting cases of attacks on banks, stores and restaurants. AFP correspondents in Almaty witnessed men dressed in police uniform throw down their shields and helmets into a pile and embrace protesters.

2022 01 05T101623Z 1724476681 RC2PSR98STQ3 RTRMADP 3 KAZAKHSTAN PROTESTS
Damaged police cars pictured near the mayor's office in Almaty on January 5, 2022. © REUTERS stringer

The protests have shaken Kazakhstan's image as a politically stable and tightly-controlled nation – which it has used to attract hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment into its oil and metals industries. They mark the biggest threat so far to the regime established by Kazakhstan's founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down in 2019 and ushered party loyalist Tokayev into the presidency. 

Tokayev declared a state of emergency in Almaty and the oil-producing western Mangistau province early on Wednesday, later extending it to the capital Nursultan. He accused domestic and foreign provocateurs of being behind the violence.

The interior ministry said that government buildings were also attacked in the southern cities of Shymkent and Taraz overnight, with 95 police officers wounded in clashes. Police have detained more than 200 people.

Price controls reinstated

The protests began in Mangistau province on Sunday after the government lifted price controls on liquefied petroleum gas at the start of the year. Many Kazakhs have converted their cars to run on LPG because of its low cost.

Speaking to acting cabinet members on Wednesday, Tokayev ordered them and provincial governors to reinstate LPG price controls and broaden them to gasoline, diesel and other "socially important" consumer goods. He also ordered the government to develop a personal bankruptcy law and consider freezing utilities' prices and subsidising rent payments for poor families. 

In addition to replacing the prime minister, Tokayev appointed a new first deputy head of the National Security Committee who replaced Samat Abish, a nephew of ex-president Nazarbayev.

Nazarbayev, 81, a Soviet-era Communist Party boss, ran Kazakhstan for almost 30 years before resigning abruptly in 2019 and backing Tokayev as successor. Nazarbayev retains sweeping powers as the chairman of the security council; he has not convened the council or commented on this week's violence.

Like many emerging and developing economies, Kazakhstan has grappled with rising price pressures in recent years. Inflation was closing in on 9% year-on-year late last year – its highest level in more than five years – forcing the central bank to raise interest rates to 9.75%.


Author: Editors Desk


 Keywords: Kazakhstan

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