The spontaneous riots that engulfed Kazakhstan have already led to the resignation of the government. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev introduced state regulation of prices for liquefied gas, gasoline and diesel, as well as socially significant food products. However, it is not possible to take control of the situation only by these decisions. In the largest cities of the republic there are new clashes. Protesters have seized the Akimat of Almaty and are trying to break into the old residence of the president.
Crowd with truncheons
The center of the former capital of Kazakhstan is engulfed in riots, the administration building of Almaty is on fire. On the main square and near state institutions – armored vehicles. Protesters again seize police cars, beat law enforcement officers with sticks, use flashbangs.
Two hundred people were detained the day before. About a hundred police officers were injured, four dozen official vehicles were smashed or burned. But, obviously, this does not stop the protesters. The introduced state of emergency and curfew have not yet changed the situation either.
Entry into the city is limited, rallies, strikes, entertainment and sports events are prohibited. Businessmen are asked not to call employees to work for the next two days. But there is a heated crowd on the streets, and the security forces are unable to contain it. In the afternoon, protesters set fire to the building of the Akimat – the mayor’s office of Almaty. The Prosecutor General’s Office also caught fire.
Meanwhile, in the city from which the protests began, Zhanaozen , there are also thousands of protesters on the streets. Demands to cut prices were replaced by political ones. People urge to introduce popular elections of akim of each region and city, return the Constitution of 1993 and bring to power a “non-systemic person”.
Majilisman Bakhytbek Smagul tried to calm the protesters. “People have the right to go to peaceful rallies,” said the parliamentarian. “The police should not use weapons, we should not allow human losses.”
He stressed that those who came out to the rallies demand a better life : “But one must not succumb to provocations and damage the state and other people.” The dissolution of the government is “evidence that the authorities hear their people,” the deputy argued. If required, he will also resign. Smagul repeated: one must not allow what happened in Zhanaozen in 2011. Then there was a massive strike of oil workers, resulting in major riots in the city. Fifteen people were killed and hundreds were injured. The authorities harshly suppressed the protests.
Oil workers’ strikes, which demanded better working conditions and higher wages, often happened in the Mangistau region in those years. The basis of the region’s economy is the oil and gas sector. There are six dozen deposits and hundreds of industrial enterprises. Explored oil reserves exceed three billion tons. The leading oil refining company of the republic “Mangistaumunaigaz” operates in the region.
From there, the current protests began too – because of the sharply increased price of liquefied gas, which is used to refuel most of the cars in the region. The authorities did not immediately attach serious importance to the situation, although parliamentarians now say they noticed the discontent and warned the government.
The government responded with state regulation
Fundamental decisions began to be made only on January 5 – obviously with a delay. For half a year, prices for liquefied gas, gasoline and diesel will be regulated by the state. For the same period, a moratorium will be introduced on the increase in housing and communal services tariffs for the population. Tokayev believes that the state should also control food prices. How long the moratorium will last will be decided by the regional authorities.
“The government, including the Ministry of Energy, as well as KazMunayGas and Kazakhgaz are to blame for the public outcry over the rise in gas prices,” Tokayev listed.
The President drew attention to the fact that back in June he ordered to build a plant for the production of liquefied gas on the basis of the Kazakh gas processing enterprise, but so far only a feasibility study of the project is ready. “The issue of its financing has not been resolved. The current procedure for the distribution and sale of liquefied gas has not been worked out. There are no mechanisms to limit the rise in prices in e-commerce. As a result, the Ministry of Energy was unable to promptly respond to e-commerce,” Tokayev listed.
In the future, it is necessary to “qualitatively revise the gas industry and fully ensure the domestic market.” In the meantime, the Prosecutor General’s Office, together with the Agency for the Protection of Competition, will conduct an investigation for a possible price collusion between companies producing liquefied gas.
According to local media reports, the director of a gas processing plant (GPP) in the Mangistau region was detained, the head allegedly inflated prices for no reason. The head of the site for electronic trade of liquefied gas was also detained. It was this mechanism that the authorities were going to use instead of state regulation of prices.
The duties of the prime minister were entrusted to Alikhan Smailov. Former vice minister of foreign affairs of Kazakhstan, vice minister of finance, first deputy prime minister.
Against the background of protests, the Supreme Mufti Nauryzbay kazhy Taganuly addressed the people: “Thirty years ago we achieved the Independence that our ancestors dreamed of. Praise be to Allah! Today, every citizen of Kazakhstan has a sacred duty to preserve this Independence. A state deprived of peace, like a sky without stars “.
Protests have organizers
Such massive protests over the rise in gas prices, which are used by a limited number of motorists, are unexpected for the authorities. And it is doubtful that they are the main reason for the dissatisfaction of Kazakhstanis, says Stanislav Pritchin, a senior researcher at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies at the IMEMO RAS. The increase in prices was canceled, but this did not affect the dynamics of the development of the protests.
“The authorities did not calculate such a reaction, as it did several years ago, when they carried out the land reform and” anti-Chinese demonstrations “swept across the country, – the interlocutor gives an analogy.
The geography is also indicative: the protests began in the west of the country. “There are several factors here – the rather passionate nature of local residents, who always actively defend their rights. And secondly, the increased requirements for social security,” Pritchin lists. And people have a demand for social justice. And production is carried out at old fields, there is no investment, which means that it is impossible to increase the volume of production and ensure an increase in wages. “
In addition, the speed with which the riots spread throughout the country indicates a fairly high degree of organization. It is not yet clear who is the center, but it is obvious that these are internal forces, which have their own interests, Pritchin emphasizes.
However, the interlocutor doubts that the Kazakh performances will follow the Belarusian scenario: the harsh climate will simply not allow protracted street protests. If the security forces use harsh measures against the leaders of the protest, it is likely that the authorities will be able to seize the initiative. And yet it is not worth expecting that in the near future it will be possible to reassure the residents.