The President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, sacked his government on Wednesday (January 5) in response to demonstrations that agitated an oil-rich province and linked to unrest linked to rising gas prices.
A decree published on the presidential website indicates that 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 (south-east), the economic capital. A curfew will be in place from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“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 68-year-old head of state, who has governed the country since 2019.
“The old man out!” “
Police used stun grenades and tear gas in Almaty on Tuesday to disperse a demonstration against rising gas prices that had brought together several thousand people, to cries of “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.
Two journalists from Agence France-Presse (AFP), 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.
Lower prices in an attempt to calm tensions
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 (0.10 euros) per liter in the region, against 120 at the start of the year. Justifying this regional concession, Mr. Tokayev assured on Twitter that it was “To ensure stability in the country”, but 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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Kazakhstan: the president dismisses his government