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What’s Behind the Political Crisis in Kazakhstan

Las razones de la crisis política que se vive en Kazajistán

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Kazakhstan is currently experiencing the largest protests in its post-Soviet history, which led to violent riots with fatalities among demonstrators, whom the government describes as “terrorists.”

These are the keys to the crisis in Central Asia’s largest republic, which took many people inside and outside the country by surprise.

Fuel prices

Protests in the second-largest economy in the post-Soviet space broke out on January 2 after the price of liquefied gas, the country’s main automotive fuel, doubled from 60 tenges per liter to 120 tenges per liter (0.14-0.28 dollars).

Initially, the general discontent originated in the western region of Mangystau, but quickly spread throughout the country.

At the same time, economic and social slogans gradually gave way to political grievances.

Fed up with the elite

Many analysts now attribute the protests to Kazakhs’ weariness with the old elites, which has been growing in recent years and reached its peak after a new price hike.

The main demand of the government’s detractors is to put an end to the era of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, whom opponents accuse of still holding political power in Kazakhstan in the shadow of the current president.

One of the most viral images of the current protests was the demolition of one of Nazarbayev’s monuments in the town of Taldykorgan, in the southeast of the country.

Lack of real opposition

Kazakhstan lacks a real opposition, with the ruling Nur Otan party holding virtually all the power in the country. Precisely the absence of a political force that can express the concerns of part of the citizenry is, according to experts, one of the causes of the current crisis.

In the parliamentary elections held a year ago, Nur Otan revalidated his leadership in the Majlis (lower house of the Kazakh parliament) after winning more than 71% of the votes.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had set as one of his objectives after replacing Nazarbayev the development of democracy and multipartyism, tasks which the authorities will have to carry out more quickly in order to avoid new crises in the future.

The protests

The protests began with peaceful marches and demonstrations against the increase in fuel prices, but in a few days took on a very violent character with attacks on police officers and looting of stores.

According to the authorities, at least 13 police officers have lost their lives in the riots.

Several demonstrators, who, according to the authorities, belong to terrorist groups, were also “eliminated.” The number of detainees exceeds 2,000 in the city of Almaty alone, the largest city in the country.

Arrival of post-Soviet military forces

The current crisis in Kazakhstan led to the intervention of the forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military bloc in the post-Soviet space that groups six countries and is led by Russia.

Nur-Sultan requested on Wednesday the assistance of CSTO members in the face of the “terrorist threat” facing the country and hours later the organization gave its approval for the deployment of more than 3,800 military personnel in Kazakhstan for the “stabilization of the situation.”

This is the first time since its creation that the post-Soviet alliance has intervened in defense of one of its members.

Internet outages

During the protests in Kazakhstan, Internet and telephone operators have reported difficulties in the proper provision of services.

As a result, information about the events in the country is limited and often arrives via social networks or quick messaging applications.

Several media outlets, including EFE, were unable to communicate with their correspondents in the country for several hours, especially on Wednesday, the day of mass riots.

Economic impact on Kazakhstan

The protests in Kazakhstan have already caused $92 million worth of damage, according to the Kazakh business community.

Moreover, the events in the former Soviet republic, which has the largest oil reserves in the post-Soviet space after Russia, threaten to cause a rise in crude oil prices.

The Kazakh crisis has already had an impact on uranium prices on the world market, as the Central Asian republic is the main producer of this mineral.

In addition, the political instability in Kazakhstan caused a fall in the price of bitcoin, as the internet outages affected the activity of miners.

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