Unrest in Kazakhstan: What's behind it and why it matters
This week, thousands of people of Kazakhstan have taken it to the streets to protest, originally because of a sudden increase in fuel prices. However, the anger has apparently grown into opposition against the local government, which is the biggest challenge the authorities have faced in decades. Over 1,000 people have reportedly been injured and hundreds were hospitalized as a result of the current events.
What caused the protest?
Apart from raised prices of liquified petroleum gas (LPG), which many Kazakhs use to power their cars, dissatisfaction with the local government and harsh criticism of common corruption also played a role in keeping the protests alive. Some other factors include people's discontent with lack of democracy in the country.
In addition to lower fuel prices, the marchers are now demanding switching from the system where the president appoints the country's regional leaders, to the one where people elect them.
How has the government responded?
To suppress the further progress of the protests, the government declared a state of emergency and blocked many social media and communication apps. The entire government resigned, former president Nursultan Nazarbayev was fired by the current president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and the possible dissolution of the Parliament was announced. The authorities promised the dissolution would be followed by elections of the new Parliament. However, the listed actions have failed to reduce people's dissatisfaction.
Why does the current unrest in Kazakhstan matter?
Being a former Soviet republic, Kazakhstan belongs to a group of countries which, to this day, are heavily influenced by Russia. People's calls for democracy in Kazakhstan, from Russia's point of view, can threaten its power and authority in the region. In addition, the chaos in Kazakhstan poses a threat to stability in neighboring countries, meaning Russia could be facing more of such protests in regions where it wishes to maintain influence.