Authorities are facing tough choices in Kazakhstan, as demonstrations against plans to sell and rent swathes of farming land threaten to evolve into a broader anti-government movement. Some analysts are cautioning that the situation is combustible.
The potential for discontent has been percolating since November, when legislative changes were approved to extend the maximum period for which farming land could be rented to foreigners from 10 to 25 years. Emotions only began to run high in late April, after the government started a public information campaign on plans to make new land available for Kazakh buyers and foreign renters, starting this summer.
To date, attempts to defuse tension have ranged from heavy-handed policing and media attacks on demonstrators to pleading reassurances and warnings about the possibility of violence.
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