Zhaken Bissenova, the head of a non-profit that helps impoverished women in Almaty, was a long-time supporter of Kazakhstani President Nazarbayev and his economic policies – until recently.
For more than two decades, the Nazarbayev administration’s emphasis on a Soviet-style social safety net ensured that retirees like Bissenova remained loyal. But now, as the country's economic growth slows and authorities start to tighten purse strings, a pension-reform bill passed by parliament in early May threatens to alienate what, until this point, has been a solid part of the administration’s base.
"Nazarbayev was popular several years ago across the country," Bissenova told EurasiaNet.org. "Now people in both urban and rural areas are growing disillusioned with his policies. Discontent is brewing in the countryside, where living conditions are dismal, and a protest mood is palpable. But the government doesn’t want to listen to its people."
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Alisher Khamidov is a researcher who specializes on Central Asian affairs.