Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the resignation of his government Wednesday following violent protests over surging fuel prices. Tokayev named Alikhan Smailov as acting prime minister, according to the president’s office.
Earlier Wednesday, Tokayev had declared a two-week state of emergency in the financial capital Almaty and the province of Mangystau after protests broke out in several locations.
The interior ministry said demonstrations continued on Wednesday when, “groups of citizens blocked roads and blocked traffic, disrupting public order.”
The protests on Tuesday came after authorities lifted price caps on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), allowing fuel prices to rise significantly.
More than 200 people had been detained and 95 police officers injured since the start of protests.
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.
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 Wednesday. The AFP news agency reported that there were more than 5,000 protesters at the Almaty rally on Tuesday night.
“Calls to attack government and military offices are absolutely illegal,” Tokayev said in an address.
The protesters had been chanting “government resign” before police moved in and clashed with demonstrators.
Why are people in Kazakhstan protesting?
The Mangystau 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.
Tokayev said in a Tweet on Tuesday that the government would move to lower LPG prices in line with protesters’ demands, but this failed to dampen the protests.
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.