A Kazakh opposition group on Wednesday called for public protests after accusing the authorities of detaining dozens of its supporters in order to prevent them from setting up a new political party ahead of a parliamentary election next year.
The new party could become the only real opposition group to run for parliament which has for years been dominated by the ruling Nur Otan party.
Some analysts expected oil-rich Kazakhstan to allow more political competition under President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev who succeeded veteran ruler and Nur Otan leader Nursultan Nazarbayev last year.
But activist Zhanbolat Mamay, who has led the efforts to create a new political party, said many of its supporters will be unable to attend the convention planned this week.
“Due to large-scale pressure on the Democratic Party, mass harassment and human rights violations, and a blatant attempt by the authorities to disrupt the founding congress of the Democratic Party we announce that the Feb.22 congress is being canceled,” political activist Zhanbolat Mamay told reporters.
“Instead, party supporters are going to hold a rally”, Mamay said, adding that police have detained dozens of the group’s supporters.
The rally – which Mamay said would become the first in a series of public protests – is set to take place in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, just hours before another opposition group’s gathering.
Public protests not sanctioned by the authorities are illegal in Kazakhstan and are often dispersed by police, although the authorities have become slightly more lenient under Tokayev.