Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for CSTO countries to send in military help and aid the country’s army and special forces in restoring public order. Although temporary and limited in its remit, the CSTO operation could be a cautionary tale regarding the capacity of the Kazakhstani leadership to maintain law and order in the country. So far, official sources say there are hundreds of casualties, both among law enforcement agents and protesters, thousands were injured in clashes resulting in up to 164 deaths (the number of deaths is currently disputed by the authorities), that lasted multiple days in several cities. More than 6,044 were arrested during the violent confrontation.
In 2011, for example, an eight-month strike in Zhanaozen was dispersed violently by special forces and police. Unarmed oil workers were shot and the government declared a state of emergency. In the aftermath, the regime did not allow an independent investigation of the matter and jailed three-dozen civilians, calling them guilty for the clashes that officially resulted in 16 deaths.
After two years of hardship also caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kazakhstan’s socio-economic texture was damaged beyond repair. Inflation and a weak currency accompanied by worsening employment statistics is a recipe for disaster.
Four million people lost their jobs during the pandemic, a weaker oil price negatively influenced the Kazakh tenge/US dollar exchange rate, which saw the tenge weaken by 16 per cent in two years.
Under Nazarbayev and Tokayev, political reforms lagged behind the people’s demands. Rule of law was an arbitrary concept and was considered a systemic cost by trans-national companies who were willing to invest.The Straw that Broke Kazakhstan’s Back | Inter Press Service