Protests Force Kazakhstan Government to Resign

Protests over rising fuel prices have forced the resignation of the Kazakh government on Jan. 5 after demonstrations across the Central Asian nation saw President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev personally intervene in the crisis.

The news of the resignation comes after a state of emergency was declared in the Mangistau and Almaty regions until Jan. 22, after thousands of people took to the streets across Kazakhstan for the third day of protests over the rising cost of LPG fuel. Aljazeera reported that two AFP journalists said the rally in Almaty garnered at least 5,000 people, but protests around the country are growing.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had called for protesters to abstain from causing more unrest in both a televised address and via a social media thread on Twitter. He also announced that the government, “in order to ensure stability in the country,” had decided to reduce the price for liquefied gas in the Mangistau region to 50 tenge (US$0.11) per liter.

However, the unrest continued into the morning of Jan. 5 in Almaty, with demonstrators clashing with riot police who have responded with tear gas and stun grenades, reported Eurasianet.org—a Eurasian media group.

KAZAKHSTAN
Protesters attend a rally in Almaty after energy price hikes, on Jan. 4, 2022. (Abduaziz Madyarov/AFP via Getty Images)
NTD Photo
A burning police car during a protest against LPG cost rise following the Kazakh authorities’ decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Jan. 5, 2022. (Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters)

The protests, which started on Sunday in the west of the country in the city of Zhanaozen and the Mangistau region, came after the price of car fuel rose dramatically to 120 Tenge (US$0.27), which is double the price fuel was sold for last year at 60 tenge (US$0.14).

Kazakh petroleum prices had previously been regulated and subsidized in the country. However, in 2019, the Kazakh government decided to institute a move to an electronic pricing system with the goal to end the subsidizing for domestic LPG customers, allowing the market to dictate prices instead. This means that the domestic trade in LPG now happens over online trading platforms and in areas where LPG fuel is in high demand—like the Mangistau region where the government estimated at least 70 percent of cars run on the fuel—there have been steep price rises.

Despite this, the Kazakh government has denied that the new pricing system is to blame for the inflation of fuel prices, and has instead has pointed to fuel retailers as the source of the steep price rise.

Protests erupt Kazakhstan
People take part in a protest against LPG cost rise following the Kazakh authorities’ decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Jan. 4, 2022. (Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters)
Protests erupt after fuel price rise in Almaty
Kazakh law enforcement officers stand guard outside the city administration headquarters during a protest against LPG cost rise following authorities’ decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Jan. 4, 2022. (Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters)
NTD Photo
A man holds a mobile phone while walking past a board with a Kazakh state flag during a protest against LPG cost rise following authorities’ decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Jan. 5, 2022. (Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters)

Energy Minister Magzum Mirzagaliyev said in a statement on Jan. 2 that there was nothing wrong with the new system and that it was the fault of gas stations, which he said were purchasing LPG fuel for 78 tenge (US$0.18) per litre but were placing the retail price between 100 to 120 tenge, bringing the mark up to between 25 and 50 percent.

Mirzagaliyev said this was “higher than expected” and “gives us grounds to suspect possible price speculation among filling stations,” reported Eurasianet.

He also said the price hikes were due to increased demand for LPG, despite a stagnant output from the region’s gas company, and noted the national anti-monopoly agency is investigating.

However, this has done little to quell the discontent with Kazakhs taking to social media to post videos of the protests around the country.

From The Epoch Times