President of Kazakhstan sacks cabinet in order to prevent protests »Capital News

Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 5 – The Kazakh president on Wednesday sacked the cabinet of the Central Asian country in an attempt to avoid unprecedented unrest in the country that followed a rise in energy prices.

More than 200 people have been arrested in protests sweeping through Kazakhstan following a rise in the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) over the New Year, which is widely used to fuel cars in the west of the country .

Thousands of people took to the streets of the larger city of Almaty and the western province of Mangystau, claiming the price hike was unfair given the oil and gas exporter’s vast energy reserves. from Kazakhstan.

Clashes erupted in Almaty, with police firing stun grenades and tear gas at a crowd of more than 5,000 people who marched through the streets of the center shouting anti-government slogans and sometimes attacking vehicles.

The Interior Ministry said 95 police officers were injured, saying protesters “had succumbed to provocations” and “groups of citizens were blocking roads and traffic, disrupting public order”.

Map of Kazakhstan locating cities where unprecedented protests have erupted in recent days over rising energy prices. © AFP / Cléa PÉCULIER

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev intervened quickly after the unrest, accepting the resignation of the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Askar Mamin.

He also imposed a state of emergency in Almaty, the financial capital, and in the province of Mangystau from January 5 to 19.

A nighttime curfew will be in place in both territories from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., with restrictions on movement within and outside the zones.

Protesters in Almaty had dispersed overnight and the streets were also quiet in the capital Nur-Sultan.

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– ‘Old outside’ –

Tokayev called for a return to calm in a video posted on Facebook.

The President of Kazakhstan signed ordinances on the state of emergency in Almaty and in the oil-rich western region of Mangystau © AFP / Abduaziz MADYAROV

“The government will not be overthrown, but we don’t need a conflict,” Tokayev said in his speech.

Protesters in Almaty shouted “old man out” – a reference to Tokayev’s predecessor and still powerful mentor, Nursultan Nazarbayev – and “quit the government” before the police intervened, starting battles with the protesters.

Tokayev took office in 2019, chosen as successor by Nazarbayev, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One of the five ex-Soviet countries in Central Asia, Kazakhstan is of crucial importance to Russia as an economic partner and is home to a large ethnic Russian population.

His authoritarian government tolerates little real opposition and has been accused of silencing independent voices and media.

Spontaneous and unauthorized protests are illegal despite a 2020 law that passed a relaxation of some restrictions on freedom of assembly.

Kazakh police fired tear gas and stun grenades to break up the rare mass protests that started over fuel prices © AFP / Rouslan PRYANIKOV

Limits appeared to have been placed on the internet on Wednesday, with Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp messaging apps all unavailable. Two independent media websites that reported on the protests also appeared to be blocked.

Smaller gatherings had been organized in towns of the republic of 19 million inhabitants from Sunday, starting with the town of Zhanaozen in Mangystau.

– Outrage at the rise in gas prices –

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Protesters take part in a rally in Almaty against rising energy prices © AFP / Rouslan PRYANIKOV

The root cause of the unrest was soaring LPG prices in the hydrocarbon-rich Mangystau, but a government decision to lower prices in line with protesters’ demands failed to calm them down.

Independent media reports suggest that Tokayev’s announcement of a new price of 50 tenge (11 US cents) per liter, up from 120 at the start of the year, did not weaken rallies in Zhanaozen and Aktau, the capital of Mangystau, as protesters aired new demands.

Images of Aktau shared on social media Tuesday showed thousands of protesters – who had camped in the city center overnight – surrounded by police.

Most had dispersed from the city center on Wednesday, state broadcaster Khabar reported.

In 2011, at least 14 striking oil workers were killed in Zhanaozen when police crushed a protest against wages and working conditions, the deadliest unrest since the republic’s independence in 1991.

Nazarbayev, who is 81 years old and has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, retains control of the country as chairman of the security council and “head of the nation” – a constitutional role that gives him unique political privileges as well as immunity from the nation. prosecution.