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14 октября 2022
Paolo Sorbello, photo from Akorda.kz

The Week in Kazakhstan: Bread, Summits, and Pressure on Media

Galloping inflation and threats against newspapers against the backdrop of several diplomatic events in Astana

The Week in Kazakhstan: Bread, Summits, and Pressure on Media

A review of the candidates for the presidential elections planned for November 20 has led to the exclusion of three out of the 12 figures that applied to be included in the ballot. The Central Election Commission (CEC), in fact, revoked the candidacy of Khairulla Gabzhalilov, Talgat Yergaliyev, and Fatima Bizakova for failing to meet the minimum requirements of prior state service. Nurzhan Altayev’s candidacy is still suspended pending an investigation on the organization that supported his campaign.

In the meantime, between Monday and Tuesday, incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s presidential campaign was able to collect around 400,000 signatures across the country and present them at the CEC for review. This is a massive show of force from Tokayev’s team, given that the minimum number of signatures needed to register a candidate is around 118,000, or 1% of the electorate.

A number of heads of state visited Tokayev in Astana this week, within the framework of official visits and international summits, among which the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

On October 12, before his landing in Astana, activists picketed the Russian consulate protesting the visit of Vladimir Putin, who would take part in both CICA and CIS meetings. Four activists were briefly detained by the local police.

During the state visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tokayev said he wished to develop cooperation further and bring trade turnover to $10 billion per year, more than doubling the current figure. In addition, he revived the proposal for the development of a trans-Caspian corridor to expedite transit links and reduce costs.

At the CICA conference, where Kuwait was accepted as its 28th member state, Tokayev invited his colleagues to a conference in 2024 dedicated to the topic of the environment and climate change in Astana.

On October 5, a severed pig head was delivered to the headquarters of Orda.kz, a local media outlet, and on October 14 unidentified attackers broke the windows at the office of another news organization, Elmedia. In reference to the attacks against Orda, the Committee to Protect Journalists, a media watchdog, said in a statement that “Kazakh authorities must … ensure that journalists can operate free from such odious forms of pressure.”

The ministry of agriculture said in a statement that the price of bread increased by 12% in the first nine months of 2022. In June, Yerbol Karashukeyev, the agriculture minister, had said that he did not envision inflation for bread prices.

Two major court cases saw important developments. In the case against Yelzhan Birtanov, the prosecutor called for the former health minister to serve six years in prison for abuse of office. A court in Zhezkazgan, in the Ulytau region, refused to grant parole to Muratkhan Tokmadi, who is serving a 10-year sentence for manslaughter. In March, Tokmadi appealed to Tokayev for a reconsideration of his case, which, he argues, was orchestrated by the National Security Committee to frame him.