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Chemical processes, Petroleum production, Industrial gases, Synthetic fuel technologies, Waste treatment technology
Chemical processes, Petroleum production, Industrial gases, Synthetic fuel technologies, Waste treatment technology
Latest Afina News
Mar 21, 2023
No Comments Afina (32) and Alimzjan (35) are confident. The young couple have just voted for parliament for the first time in their lives in Gymnasium No. 25 of Almaty, in southeastern Kazakhstan. On the roof of the brightly painted building, the blue-yellow flag flutters in the winter sun, a cheerful tune blares across the schoolyard. In front of the door is a large board with the more than twenty candidates, from which voters can select their favourite. Almost sixty years ago, when the infamous Soviet KGB still housed the building across the street, sitting president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (69) went to school here. Afina and Alimzjan did not vote for Amanat’s governing party, but for Respublika, one of the parties loyal to the government. “Kazakhstan is stable, democratic and moving forward, why should we vote for an opposition party,” says tall Alimzjan from behind his black sunglasses. The couple was born and raised in Almaty, but as many residents speak Russian. This Sunday, the 18 million Kazakhstans voted in early elections for the Mazjilis, the Kazakhstani parliament. According to the first exit polls, Amanat received about 54 percent of the vote. The vote was preceded by an unprecedentedly lively campaign battle by Kazakhstan standards. For four weeks now, colorful campaign posters have dominated the streets in the cities and residents have been presented with countless television debates. “There is finally hope for real change,” pro-government media have been buzzing for weeks. Bloody January The parliamentary elections are presented as an important step in the reform process that President Tokayev started last year. For the first time since 2007, serious opposition candidates were allowed to fight. The reforms follow the nationwide uprising that shook Kazakhstan to its foundations early last year. At least 238 civilians died during ‘bloody January’, thousands were arrested. The riots were prompted by an increase in fuel prices, which drove workers onto the streets in the western industrial city of Zhanaozhen. From there, popular anger spread across the country, targeting 82-year-old former president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Although he handed over the baton to Tokayev on March 19, 2019 after forty years, he remained closely involved behind the scenes. “Old man, go away!” it sounded in those days from tens of thousands of throats. Kazakhstan is stable, democratic and moving forward, why should we vote for an opposition party? Alimzian voter in Almaty In Almaty, the former capital and economic center of the country, citizens also took to the streets in peaceful protest. This escalated into riots, in which several government buildings went up in flames. From Astana, Tokayev intervened hard. He claimed that there was a “coup attempt” by “foreign terrorists” and fired live ammunition at demonstrators. To calm things down, the government stepped down and temporarily allowed Russian “peacekeepers” to restore order. Read also: A year after ‘bloody January’, Kazakhstans still have many questions Since the riots, Tokayev has done everything he can to create distance from his former teacher Nazarbayev. But despite promises of transparent investigations into the riots, Kazakhstan is still awaiting clarification a year later and activists are being hindered in independent investigations. Early presidential elections last November, in which Tokayev claimed 80 percent of the vote, also inspired little confidence among critics. ‘Nothing changed’ “Don’t think anything has changed here,” growls a portly twentysomething, lighting a cigarette in one of the tree-lined streets of the city center. Gaziz, like thousands of young people from the countryside, moved to Almaty with the hope of a job and a better future. Besides his studies, he works as a taxi driver for Yandex, one of the many Russian companies that dominate the street scene. A resident of Almaty casts her vote at home on Sunday for parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan. Election officials visit voters with a ballot box. Foto Ruslan Pryanikov / AFP Asked if he will vote, he shakes his head and tucks his head into his collar against the harsh wind that blows through the streets from the Tian-Shian Mountains on the east side of the city. “Why would I? Nothing changes here anyway. Whether the president’s name is Tokayev or Nazarbayev, it’s one pot wet and they all work for Putin.” Although Kazakhstan is on good terms with Russia, the Russian expansionist drive in Ukraine has not gone unnoticed by Kazakhstans. Nor the tens of thousands of Russians who find refuge in Almaty to avoid mobilization and war. Many Kazakhstans believe that Tokayev allows himself to be directed by his powerful northern neighbour, as Kazakhstani politicians did during the Soviet Union. Critics argue that Tokayev’s reform promises are only meant to appease the West, which has sharpened its focus on Central Asia since the war. During a rare visit to Astana last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that the US is strictly enforcing sanctions against Russia. Opposition While optimists hope that under Tokayev the country will be able to steer an independent course with democracy instead of favoritism and corruption, most Kazakhstans seem skeptical about Tokayev’s agenda. Last November, he was re-elected in an early presidential election without significant competition. The fact that opposition candidates across the country were kicked out of the race just before the finish strengthened their distrust. Inga Imanbai was spared that fate against all odds. The 34-year-old activist is the leader of the Kazakhstani Democratic Party, one of the few parties that strongly opposes the incumbent government. Two days before the elections, the small, energetic thirty-something is running through the dark corridors of an old building on the edge of Almaty’s center. She has just recorded a video message and will soon address a group of election observers. Inga ImanbaiMoreleader of the Democratic Party in Kazakhstan. Photo Marina Kurbayeva Actually, her husband should have been running around here. But Kazakhstani politician and journalist Dzhanbulat Mamai (34) has been in jail for a year on charges of organizing the anti-government riots. He was arrested in March 2022, spent months in prison and has been under house arrest for four months. This pending the trial, which could put him behind bars for ten years. Amnesty declared him a prisoner of conscience. “Of course it is a political process,” says Imanbai in her office, with diplomas on the walls and anti-torture posters. “The regime clearly sees my husband as a threat.” She herself worked with her husband at a now closed opposition newspaper. She now works at the International Bureau for Human Rights, Kazakhstan’s most well-known human rights organization, where she worked on the rights of political prisoners. “Now my own husband is Kazakhstan’s most important political prisoner.” Busily talking and gesticulating, Imanbai tells how the authorities have been doing everything possible for three years to prevent the registration of the Democratic Party. “When we finally gathered the 1,000 constitutionally required members, the police went through all of them and used scare tactics and bribery to make them renounce their membership.” She herself lost her job as editor-in-chief at an independent newspaper. My husband is Kazakhstan’s most important political prisoner Inga ImanbaiMore Democratic Party leader According to Imanbai, the fact that the small party is still competing for a parliamentary seat this Sunday is only intended to appease the West. “The authorities use us to polish their image, because they cannot ignore us. Dzamboulat is internationally recognized as a political prisoner, I work for one of the most famous human rights organizations in Central Asia. They also know that Almaty is receiving a lot of attention from journalists and election observers because of the riots. Now they are nice to us for a while, but after the elections they will thwart us again.” Tikhanovskaya Imanbai’s story evokes comparisons with Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who became the leader of the Belarusian opposition after her husband’s arrest. The Kazakhstani activist has to laugh at that honorable comparison, but also emphasizes the differences. “Tikhanovskaya was shaped by circumstances, she kept herself far from politics before her husband’s arrest. I have been involved in politics and human rights for years.” Although Mamai is not allowed to go out and use the internet, he has been closely involved in the campaign his wife is running on his behalf in recent weeks. In the evening, when their three small children are asleep, they map out the party strategy and plans together. “We are spouses, but also allies. We want to see our children grow up in a free and democratic Kazakhstan. Tokayev built the current system together with Nazarbayev. Why would he want to change that?” A Kazakhstani voter with his ballot paper in Almaty, Sunday afternoon. Foto Ruslan Pryanikov/AFP
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