August 2023 | Wounds of Qandy Qantar remain untreated
Criminal trials against those who took part in Kazakhstan’s January 2022 ‘Qandy Qantar’ (Bloody January) unrest continue, with lawyers and human rights activists protesting a lack of evidence, procedural violations, the prosecution of individuals who died in the unrest, widespread torture of detainees, and the investigation’s lack of independence from the executive. Foreign and independent researchers have not been permitted to participate in investigatory processes, and relatives of Kazakhs who died during the unrest say their cases have been dismissed or classified without investigation.
April 2023 | Former security services chief sentenced to 18 years
Karim Masimov, the long-time powerful head of the Kazakh security services, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on high treason charges for what prosecutors said was organizing the January 2022 ‘Black January’ unrest in the country. Several of Masimov’s deputies were also sentenced to lengthy prison terms, although due to the secrecy of the trial, details of the treason charges and Masimov’s alleged role in the mass protests remain unclear. Although public accusations have centred around grand corruption, observers suspect the move may be part of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s efforts to use the ‘Black January’ events as an excuse to remove potential supporters of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev from positions of authority.
March 2023 | Snap election returns little change
Snap parliamentary and local elections returned a weakened majority for the ruling Amanat party on 19 March. While the government held the entry of new parties into parliament as a sign of the country’s liberalization, opposition, activists, and independent observers argued that independent candidates had been prevented from running and saw no signs nominal opposition parties would contest or interfere with government policymaking. The percentage of women in parliament fell from 27 per cent to 18 per cent. Turnout was a historic low of 54 per cent nationwide and 26 per cent in the capital, Astana.
February 2023 | New registration process, same old results
Despite a simplification of the registration process, political parties critical of the government in Kazakhstan have seen their applications to participate in the 19 March general elections repeatedly rejected. Although a few new parties with real or suspected ties to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev have been registered – marking the first successful registration of new political parties in decades – analysts argue the move is more about creating a new parliament beholden to Tokayev rather than his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev.