Kazakhstani People Believe in Efficacy of Peaceful Meetings, but Still Consider Protests to Be Agreed with Authorities

DEMOSCOPE Bureau of express monitoring of public opinion has surveyed citizens on issue “The right to conduct peaceful meetings in Kazakhstan”. In total, starting from September 26 to 29, 2019, 1100 people were surveyed in 14 regions and cities of republican status (Astana, Almaty, Shymkent). The survey was performed by means of phone calls by landline numbers.  47% men and 53% women over 18 participated in the surveyThe framework for selection was subscriber base of landline numbers of Kazakhstan. For such selection, maximum size of statistical discrepancy at the 95% credible level does not exceed 3%.   

2019 year became historical for Kazakhstan – Nursultan Nazarbayev stepped down from the presidency of the country, and the capital was renamed after him. Power transit was made at a time when massive protests have been activating, critics was escalated in social networks, including  political and electoral activity which is unprecedented for Kazakhstani society, and hardline response of authorities on it.

These processes received various interpretations. Traditionally, the range of interpretation included either probable incitation of protests from outside and objective preconditions based on internal problems of society: economic, political, social.

Elevated degree of citizens’ discontent has a set of obvious reasons. However, these reasons need to be sized among citizens themselves, not only experts. In addition, it is required to conduct a research of society’s attitude to peaceful gatherings, which are still exotic in Kazakhstan.

Protest campaigns are taken and marked sharply negatively in state and state-linked environment.  However, recently, interpretation of right for peaceful gatherings got liberal-lining signs even among authorities, at least, according to new president. Thus, on September 2, the President, Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev in his first message reminded on constitutional position of civil right to participate in peaceful gathering and stated that control of peaceful gatherings needs to be liberalized:

–  In accordance with Constitution, our citizens have a right to freely express their will.

If peaceful campaigns do not pursue a goal to violate law and peace of citizens, we should consider requests, and in order established by law, to permit its conduction, to allot special places for them. However, notinsuburbs.

Oppositional and radical critical environment takes activation of protest in Kazakhstan positively and enthusiastically, but it is not less actual to research public opinion, their understanding and perception of right for peaceful gatherings, arrests, efficiency of protest.

Demoscope Bureau had surveyed Kazakhstani people on their attitude to peaceful meetings.  According to results, 43% respondents have a positive attitude to gatherings, 16% – negative attitude, and 41% citizens have indifferent attitude, or were undecided. In addition, we can assume than they are undecided due to safety considerations. In any case, we can acknowledge a rather large number of respondents, who consider peaceful gathering as an occurrence and a right.

Fundamentally important thing in perceptual problem of peaceful gathering in society is understanding of practicability and effectiveness, i.e. whether people understand the need in gatherings, and whether such gatherings have any results. In other words, in more passive society, in response to question “could peaceful gatherings improve the situation in country?”, the most respondents would prefer to consider  that meetings are useless and/or exclusively destructive.

Meanwhile, the most Kazakhstani people (46% respondents) expressed confidence that peaceful gathering can affect events and policymaking.

Oppositely, 40% respondents consider that gatherings undermine situation in the country. Otherrefusedtogiveassessment.

In statements of different activists, there were requirements to replace a permissible nature of peaceful gathering to notifying nature, because a freedom to participate in peaceful meetings is a fundamental right of every person, and gatherings should not be agreed with authorities.

Probably, this procedural segment of perceptual problem of peaceful gathering continues to remain the most paternalistic in Kazakhstani people mind, because 73% of them consider that conduction of gatherings should be agreed with authorities. Only17% respondentsaredisagreewiththem. Besides, taking into account that in fact Kazakhstani people haven’t lived in conditions of developed democracy, and do not know any standards in the sphere of international rights, such indications is quite logical.

Another one main indicator of social perception was an issue on legitimacy and relevancy of arrests of meetings participants who did not violate public order. Remarkable fact is that most citizens express sympathy to suffered people. 58% respondents hold an opinion that activists are arrested illegally. Less number of respondents – 24% applaud moves, and consider protestors as violators of public order.

In the context of regions, the largest number of people disagreed with arrest of protestors is in Atyrau region – 78%, the smallest number among people of Turkestan region and Karaganda region – 47%.

Survey results had showed that Kazakhstani people, in general, have more positive attitude to peaceful gatherings and believe that social campaigns can help to improve the situation in the country. At the same time, citizens are still think inertial on a matter of agreement of gatherings with authorities. However, they do not support massive arrests, expressing sympathy to activists.

Historical apolitical decades in the country, soviet past and state-linked propaganda affected the perception of peaceful gatherings in Kazakhstani people. However, it is evident that protest perception as legal expression of will is evolutionizing, and citizens start to believe in its effectiveness.

Phone survey was conducted by “KT Cloud Lab” LLP contact-center.    


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The Project is performed by MediaNet International Center for Journalism under support of Konrad Adenauer Foundation Office in Kazakhstan. Data reflects respondents’ points of view only.

Contact us:

Project manager, Snezhana Tsoy +7(727) 292-20-46.

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