Central Asia

Kazakhstan government resigns following protests over fuel prices

Published : January 05, 2022 15:44 IST

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city. Photo: Vladimir Tretyakov/AP/dpa/picture alliance

The announcement came hours after the government declared a two-week state of emergency following protests.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the resignation of his government on January 5 following violent protests over surging fuel prices. Tokayev named Alikhan Smailov as acting prime minister, according to the president's office. Earlier on January 5, Tokayev had declared a two-week state of emergency after protests broke out in several locations.

The protests on January 4 came after authorities lifted price caps on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), allowing fuel prices to rise significantly. When announcing his government's resignation, Tokayev also said that the price cap would be reintroduced as a "temporary price regulation" for a period of 180 days.

The state of emergency includes an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew, movement restrictions, and a ban on mass gatherings, according to official documents. Covered by the lockdown are the country's biggest city, Almaty, and the western province of Mangystau.

How did the protests start?

After a surge in the price of fuel, protests with thousands of participants were held in the Mangystau oil hub of Zhanaozen. Demonstrations spread to other parts of Mangystau and western Kazakhstan, including the provincial center Aktau and the Tengizchevroil worker camp.

Police used tear gas and stun grenades to eject protester's from Almaty's main square early on Janaury 5. The AFP news agency reported that there were more than 5,000 protesters at the Almaty rally on the night of January 4. "Calls to attack government and military offices are absolutely illegal," Tokayev said in an address. AFP reported that protesters had been chanting "government resign" before police moved in and clashed with demonstrators.

Why are people in Kazakhstan protesting?

The Mangistau region depends on LPG as the main fuel for vehicles. Jumps in fuel prices also affect the price of food, which has increased substantially since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Many Kazakhs run their cars on LPG, which in Kazakhstan is cheaper than using gasoline due to price caps. The government lifted the caps on January 1, arguing that the low price was unsustainable. Tokayev tweeted on Janaury 4 that the government would move to lower LPG prices in line with protesters' demands, but this failed to dampen the protests.

sdi/wmr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)