The President of Kazakhstan may strengthen if the street does not get out of control
Since the evening of January 4, street fighting has not stopped in Alma-Ata. The city hall was in the hands of protesters twice a day. The country's authorities threw troops into the attack, but even this was not enough to save the presidential residence from arsonists. Stanislav Pritchin, a senior researcher at the Center for Post-Soviet Studies, IMEMO RAN, told MK who could be behind the protests in Kazakhstan, which began with a two-fold increase in gas prices:
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Photo: Still from video
– Everything is very similar to a well-coordinated action. In particular, Aktau and Alma-Ata have become harrowers of the protest, although they are located in different parts of the country. Social networks, messengers and so on are used. One could say that we are faced with a classic 'digital revolution'. But from the point of view of social demand, not everything is so simple.
First, Western non-profit organizations are poorly represented in Kazakhstan. Secondly, Kazakhstan itself is pursuing a multi-vector foreign policy, attracting huge volumes of Western investments.
Most likely, it was not external, but internal reasons that led to the protests. This is evident from the demands of the protesters: food and fuel prices, lowering the retirement age, higher wages and pensions, and so on. This is a demand for social justice. On the one hand, Kazakhstan is one of the richest and most successful states in Central Asia, and on the other, incomes are unevenly distributed. Maybe it all came together by chance at one point, or maybe someone inside the country deliberately created such a situation.
– So far Tokayev looks like the main beneficiary of the protests. The logic of the development of personnel processes, including the resignation of the government, shows that the engine of protests may not be internal or external opposition at all. Another issue is that games to change the internal political configuration of power can get out of control at any moment. We see this in Alma-Ata, where the street begins to dictate its will. If yesterday people came out to express their opinion, today marauders joined the protest. Now the protest is led not by some coordinators, but by people who are trying to warm up to destabilization.
– In a trial version, elections of rural akims were held in 2021, and it seems that the experiment was recognized as successful. But under the existing tax system, any akim will still be dependent on the center. In addition, now the political culture in Kazakhstan does not contribute to the creation of a competitive environment. Tokayev is gradually preparing the country for greater democratization, but Kazakhstan itself is difficult to govern, so a strong presidential power must remain. We have the example of Kyrgyzstan, which very quickly abandoned the parliamentary republic.
– It will depend on how effectively the state of emergency will work. For example, in Aktau everything is relatively stable, while in Alma-Ata everything goes according to the most negative scenario. So far, it is the security forces who suffer the most, taking away their weapons, damaging their vehicles, and so on.
– There, the dispute concerned the economic relations between workers and the employer. In addition, Alma-Ata is a city with a 3 million and opposition-minded population. Dealing with it is much more difficult.
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