Home LATEST NEWS What is happening in Kazakhstan is “an unexpected political upheaval”

What is happening in Kazakhstan is “an unexpected political upheaval”


A text by Adama Diouf

Since January 2, 202, Kazakhstan lives at the rate of violent demonstrations which resulted in the death of dozens of people Wednesday. Overwhelmed by events, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev calls for military aid from Russia.

Hélène Thibault is a professor of political science at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, where she has lived for five years. She talks about a unexpected political upheaval, even if the oil and gas producing country, moreover stable, was not necessarily immune to a popular uprising.

A suprise

The riots that Kazakhstan has been going through since the start of the year are a big surprise, because he is considered the most stable country in the region, says Hélène Thibault in an interview with TurnedNews.com.

Of course, there are economic claims in the past, but the country has never known such a political upheaval since gaining independence in 1991, especially since his standard of living is much higher to that of neighboring countries, such as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, underlines the Quebec professor.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

President of Kazakhstan Kasym-Jomart Tokayev.

Photo: AP / Yevgeny Biyatov

The professor bases her thesis on the regime change of March 2019, which saw the resignation of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the election of the current Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

There were small demonstrations and the transfer of power was done in a very peaceful way, but they did not have the magnitude of what we have seen since January 2.

A quote from Hélène Thibault, professor of political science

The Reasons Of The Wrath

The protests, which started in western Kazakhstan due to rising gasoline prices, took the effect of wildfire in the rest of the country, says Thibault, who adds that prices have increased twice in this region.

Then, they reached Almaty, the former capital of the country, before spreading to all the major cities of the country, she says.

This is really surprising, given that the civil society movement is quite weak, we do not see citizen mobilization.

A quote from Hélène Thibault, professor of political science

The discontent comes mainly from the fact that the country is rich in natural resources. Often people compare themselves to Dubai: “ we could be the next Dubai, because we have the resources to be such a rich country, but we live in poverty ”, explains the professor.

Even if the inhabitants of Kazakhstan have a relatively better standard of living than the populations of the surrounding countries, they lead a hard life, notes Ms. Thibault.

50% of households do not have access to running water, the infrastructure is lacking.

A quote from Hélène Thibault, professor of political science.

Ms. Thibault notes a real disparity between rural and urban areas. In the cities, the economic and material comfort is clearly superior to that of the villages, she emphasizes. Infrastructure is deficient in rural areas where the populations are extremely poor.

There is also a huge economic gap between those in power and the citizens. We are talking about scheme of corruption on a gigantic scale thanks to which the clan of Nazarbayev (the former president) amassed billions from the embezzled oil revenues and other resources.

The current power has not been able to meet the expectations of the population in the fight against social and economic inequalities, said Ms. Thibault.

Russia’s involvement, a mistake

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev did not need to call on Russian military forces to deal with protesters, especially since the country has security forces well organized and well funded, considers the academic.

Kazakhstan had the means to respond to this internal crisis, because it was only the former capital Almaty that experienced riots and scenes of looting. In the other cities of the country, the demonstrations were very peaceful, argues the professor.

It’s a surprising decision, a disproportionate reaction to the threat, she said of President Tokayev’s appeal for Russian military aid.

The Russian intervention testifies to what we already knew: President Tokayev is quite weak.

A quote from Hélène Thibault, professor of political science

Calling on the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) or foreign forces to respond to violence is a unpopular response in the population, who sees it as a violation of the sovereignty of the country, explains Ms. Thibault.

The decision is all the more unpopular as it has rallied to the cause of the demonstrators people who were initially opposed to their approach, she notes.

So Russia, which is looking for a role as a security guard on the international scene, has responded, of course, perhaps with enthusiasm. It gives it a certain legitimacy, a better regional base than it already had.

A quote from Hélène Thibault, professor of political science

The two countries [le Kazakhstan et la Russie] have very good diplomatic relations, this is not the Ukrainian scenario, she adds.

It is also a decision which gives legitimacy to the other countries of theOrganization of the collective security treaty, notably Tajikistan and Armenia, which have promised to send troops to Kazakhstan to support President Tokaiev, concludes Thibault.

With information from Jean-Philippe Hughes

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