Kazakh Rallys for Debt Forgiveness
IndraStra Open Journal Systems
IndraStra Global

Kazakh Rallys for Debt Forgiveness

By IndraStra Global News Team

Image Attribute: The file photo of protestors' march through Almaty's Gorky Park on May 1, 2019,/ Source: Reuters

Image Attribute: The file photo of protestors' march through Almaty's Gorky Park on May 1, 2019,/ Source: Reuters

On May 21, 2019, dozens of Kazakh homeowners, mainly women rallied outside the offices of the ruling Nur Otan party in Almaty. At the demonstration, they demanded debt forgiveness and other states financial support for people with problematic mortgages, low-income families, and single mothers. 

Demonstrators said that due to inflation, debt owed by low-income families and by families that received mortgages in 2004-09, before the global financial crisis, should be forgiven in full. They are also calling for judicial reforms that would enhance the ability of citizens to protect their rights in court. Nur Otan representatives promised to bring the protesters' demands to the government's attention.

This demonstration came two weeks ahead of a snap presidential election which is to be held on June 9. Also, it came less than a week after dozens of women protested in Nur-Sultan (the capital, formerly known as Astana) and Almaty, to call for increased social benefits. 

The May 21 rally was the latest signal of concern about economic hardships faced by citizens of the energy-rich nation, where its leader Nursultan Äbishuly Nazarbayev stepped down as president on March 19, 2019, after remaining three decades in power. Soon after his resignation, interim President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev proposed the new name for capital city Astana as Nur Sultan — a tribute to Nazarbayev. His resignation and renaming of capital — are being considered to be an attempt to turn him into a Lee Kuan Yew-type of a public figure.

Nazarbayev is now lifetime chairman of the country's Security Council and holds the title of "elbasy," or leader of the nation and will remain chairman of Nur-Otan. He is seeking to oversee a smooth transition of power to a chosen successor, Toqaev, who is certain to win the snap election. Prior to Toqaev's appointment, Nazarbayev earlier appointed Asqar Mamin as new prime minister on February 25, 2019, days after the Bakytzhan Sagintayev-led government was abruptly sacked citing failures to boost the economy and raise people's living standards.

Earlier on May 1st and 9th-10th, there were significant protests in many of Kazakhstan's major cities. There was an uncompromising clampdown in response. Dozens were arrested, and on at least one occasion authorities went to the extraordinary measure of blocking internet to limit the dissemination of news. The wave of protests on the eve of elections is arguably the regime’s biggest test since 2011 when a strike in the oil-producing region of Zhanaozen ended in violent suppression and the deaths of at least 14.

Critics say, Nazarbayev, ruled Kazakhstan with a strong hand, by denying many citizens basic rights and prolonged his power by manipulating the democratic process. Do note, no elections held in Kazakhstan since independence in 1991 has been deemed free and democratic by international observers.

With reporting by RFE/RL