Kazakhstan. For most of the year, thousands of workers in the state oil and gas company KazMunaiGaz went on strike for higher wages. The company responded with the dismissals. According to Countryaah official site, the conflict intensified, and in December, riots broke out in the oil town of Zhanaozen when dismissed oil workers clashed with riot police who opened fire. At least 16 people were killed, curfews were introduced and arrested were reported to have been tortured. Several police officers were later indicted for abusing their powers. The riots were the biggest challenge to the authoritarian regime since Kazakhstan became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Otherwise, 70-year-old President Nursultan Nazarbayev tried to strengthen his power during the year. Parliament, which lacks opposition members, decided in January on a referendum to postpone the 2012 and 2017 presidential elections and extend Nazarbayev’s mandate to 2020. from the U.S. Nazarbayev found it too good to reject a referendum, as did the Constitutional Court. Instead, the president decided to announce new elections for the presidential post. It was held at short notice in April without a chance for the opposition to prepare. According to the official result, Nazarbayev received 95.5% of the vote. One of Nazarbayev’s three hopeless opponents also said he voted for the incumbent president. There were reports of electoral fraud, and the OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) described the election as undemocratic.
A well-known opposition man, Danijar Moldashov, was beaten and robbed shortly before the election and then disappeared abroad. The opposition accused the regime of kidnapping Moldova, who was the editor of two opposition newspapers.
In August, elections to the Senate were held, as according to official information, the power party of Fosterland won all the mandates that were at stake. The regime also strengthened its control over religious life. Parliament banned prayer in public workplaces and imposed restrictions on the religious education of young people.
The regime said it wanted to curb extreme religious ideas, but the consequences seemed to be the opposite. A series of terrorist acts with a total of about 30 fatalities were reported from various cities in the formerly relatively quiet Kazakhstan. Among other things, in November, five police officers and two civilians were killed by suicide bombers in the city of Taraz. A previously unknown group, Jund al-Khilafah, took on the death that was said to be a response to restrictions on religious practice. Many people were arrested as a result of terrorist suspicions and over 100 websites were closed, considered extremist.
President Nazarbayev decided in November to dissolve Parliament’s House of Commons and announced new elections until January 2012. The election was seen by analysts as an attempt to shine on democracy, a step in Nazarbayev’s quest to portray Kazakhstan as an up-and-coming, modern state financed with growing oil and gas revenues..
However, in the state oil and gas company KazMunaiGaz, thousands of workers have been striking for higher wages since May. The company made substantial losses materially but also in public relations for the country. During the summer, close to 2,000 workers were laid off because of the strike, and a lawyer who has been an adviser to the strikers was sentenced to six years in prison accused of being revived for social enmity.
In November, the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to form the Eurasian Economic Union, which is due to enter into force in 2015.