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Kazakhs Demand Political Reform in Worst Unrest in Decades

Jan 17, 2022

By Naadiya Adams

Kazakhs have reached boiling point as protests erupt in the region. This is a sentiment very evident in the recent uprising that took place in the Asian country at the onset of the New Year. Driven by the soaring fuel prices, the people’s plight goes much deeper.

Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, a pivotal moment for Kazakhstan’s independence, the country has only seen two rulers, one of whom held onto the Presidency for 28 years; Nursultan Nazarbayev and his successor, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Tokayev now has the reigns from which he hopes to build a new Kazakhstan.

In an interview with Radio Islam, Dr Turge Dugan, a doctor in International relations at the Gazi University in Turkey as well as an expert on Kazakhstan, said the recent uprising was unprecedented. He says anti-government protests have always erupted even by smaller groups but any unrest was quickly stamped out by the government.

“There has never been such a large-scale protest across the country in Kazakhstan, however there were occasional anti-government protests,” explained Dugan.

According to Dugan, the price increase was withdrawn following the unrest however, the protests still continued showing vast dissatisfaction with the current government.

“When we look at the slogans of the protestors in the street and the demands made by megaphones in the square, we see that the issue is not just economic, protestors have demanded political reform as well as economic reform,” says Dugan.

Russian-led military were called in to assist during the unrest that saw dozens killed, hundreds injured and many arrested in what has been described as some of the most violent scenes in Kazakhstan in three decades.

Dugan believes Tokayev’s offered an adequate response in that he hadn’t taken an ignorant, exclusionary stance to the matter, on the contrary, he made improvements to the economic situation of the country.

“He dismissed government by taking into account the ordinary man, however, the protestors saw this government change as a show change and demanded a more radical change, directly targeted at Nazarbayev,” explained Dugan.

Kazakhstan has been volatile for years and Dugan says the rule of law in the country is under threat as a single day in Almaty saw government buildings and institutions, police stations all burnt to the ground, control of the airports were lost and shops and supermarkets were looted.

Dugan believes that the current Government of Kazakhstan is very vulnerable to an attack from the outside.

“The country is extremely vulnerable in a possible external attack, for this reason, it is not correct to accept that the Kazakhstan state is so weak in terms of security and intelligence,” explained Dugan.

Nazarbayev has not been seen in public since the crisis began, stimulating speculation about his whereabouts and the fate of his family members, who are among the richest people in Kazakhstan. He was dismissed last week from his post as chairman of the government’s Security Council.

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