Kazakhstan’s president yesterday called for an easing of restrictions on peaceful demonstrations, three months after thousands were detained at opposition protests in the authoritarian country.
Kazakh citizens currently need to obtain official permission to hold demonstrations, a legal stipulation that rights groups say gives authorities a veto on the constitutional right to free assembly.
Speaking in parliament, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for improved legislation to allow peaceful rallies.
“If (demonstrations are) peaceful actions that are not aimed at breaking the law and breaching the peace, then it is important to make concessions and give permission to hold demonstrations according to the law,” he said in the speech, broadcast to the nation on television.
He added that special areas should be allocated for protests that are in city centres.
Tokayev, 66, became president after the shock resignation in March of long-ruling leader Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Polls electing Tokayev after Nazarbayev picked him as his successor prompted the biggest wave of protests in three years in the ex-Soviet country.
In a possible sign of a softening of the official stance, police allowed small unauthorised protests to go ahead in three major cities over the weekend.
Dozens of demonstrators from an informal movement called “Wake Up Kazakhstan” held a march on Saturday calling for constitutional reforms in the country’s largest city of Almaty.
However, several members of the movement reported harassment from the authorities ahead of the march.