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Kazakh Lawmakers Look To Further Curtail Former President's Power

Nursultan Nazarbaev (right) and handpicked successor Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev attend the Astana Economic Forum in Nur-Sultan in May 2019.
Nursultan Nazarbaev (right) and handpicked successor Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev attend the Astana Economic Forum in Nur-Sultan in May 2019.

NUR-SULTAN -- Lawmakers in Kazakhstan have proposed stripping former President Nursultan Nazarbaev of more of his lifetime privileges after deadly protests swept across the country, in part fueled by anger over the accumulation of vast wealth by the former leader's family.

The Kazakh parliament's upper chamber, the Senate, on January 27 approved a motion by the lower house to deprive the former president of his right to be lifetime chairman of the influential Security Council and the Assembly of Kazakhstan's People.

It also added a proposal to revoke Nazarbaev's lifetime right to "coordinate the main direction of Kazakhstan's domestic and foreign policies."

After announcing his resignation in March 2019 and leaving Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev in his stead, Nazarbaev retained most of his political influence in the oil-rich, Central Asian country by enjoying his almost limitless powers as "elbasy," or leader of the nation.

But protests earlier this month in the remote town of Zhanaozen over a sudden fuel-price hike quickly spread across Kazakhstan, with much of the protesters' anger directed at Nazarbaev, who had ruled Kazakhstan since 1989.

In his first-ever public criticism of Nazarbaev on January 11, Toqaev said that under his predecessor's leadership, many lucrative businesses and extremely rich people had appeared in Kazakhstan and it was now time for the ordinary people to receive what they deserved.

Since then, a growing number of Nazarbaev's close relatives have lost their official posts as the government moved to purge or squeeze members of the ex-president's extended family.

In the wake of the protests, Toqaev, Nazarbaev's handpicked successor, claimed that Almaty was attacked by "20,000 terrorists," issued a shoot-to-kill-without-warning order, and invited troops from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization to enter the country.

No officials have given direct evidence of any "terrorists" being involved in the unrest, nor have they commented on what exactly their demands were.

Kazakh authorities say that 227 people were killed during the unrest, including 19 law enforcement officers, and 12,000 others were detained.

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Human rights groups insist that the number of people killed during the violence may be much bigger, as scores of people remain missing, and claiming that many peaceful demonstrators and persons who had nothing to do with the protesters were killed by police and military personnel following Toqaev's "shoot-to-kill-without-warning" order.

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