Bpolitical upheaval in Kazakhstan. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sacked his government on Wednesday (January 5th) and declared a state of emergency, in response to protests that erupted in several cities of this authoritarian country in Central Asia, unrest linked to a rise in fuel prices. gas. Protesters entered the main administration building in Almaty, the country’s economic capital, on Wednesday. Men in police uniforms were seen laying their shields and helmets in a pile to hug the protesters. “They’re coming over to our side! », Launched a woman while hugging another demonstrator.
These protests are rare in Kazakhstan. The Interior Ministry reported that more than 200 demonstrators were arrested for “breaches of public order” and 95 police officers injured. An internet failure occurred a few hours after the clashes. “Kazakhstan is currently experiencing a nationwide Internet blackout after a day of mobile Internet disruptions and partial restrictions,” the NGO NetBlocks said, stressing that this “is likely to severely limit the coverage of escalating anti-government protests ”.
On the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the resignation of the government. Deputy Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov will assume the role of Acting Prime Minister until a new cabinet is formed. A state of emergency has also been declared until January 19 in the regions of Mangystau, where the protests have started, and Almaty, where a night curfew will be in force from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time. A few hours earlier, Kassym-Jomart Tokaïev had addressed the population in a video posted on Facebook calling for a return to calm. “We don’t need a conflict,” he said, after previously warning protesters against any “provocation”.
“The old man, get out! “
The anger began on Sunday after a rise in the prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the western city of Janaozen, before spreading to the large regional city of Aktau, on the banks of the the Caspian Sea, then to Almaty. The government had initially tried to calm, without success, the protesters 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 beginning of the year. . In Almaty, journalists saw police dispersing a crowd of 5,000 people overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday with stun grenades and tear gas.
Protesters, some of whom attacked vehicles, chanted anti-government slogans like “Government resign!” “And” The old man out! », In reference to the former president Nursultan Nazarbaïev, mentor of the current leader and still very influential. Popular messengers WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal were down in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, while the sites of two independent media appeared to be blocked. Television also reported on Wednesday the arrest of the director of a gas processing plant and another official in the Mangystau region, where Janaozen is located. They are accused of having “increased the price of gas for no reason”, which “led to massive protests across the country”, according to this source.
Call for dialogue
Russia called on Wednesday for “dialogue” in the former Soviet republic in Central Asia. “We are closely following the events in the neighboring and brother country,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We are in favor of a peaceful solution to all the problems within the legal and constitutional framework and through dialogue, and not through street riots and violation of laws,” he added.
Kazakhstan, 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 high inflation. The Mangystau region depends on LNG as the main source of fuel for cars and any increase in its price leads to that of food products, already on the rise since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.