Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Nazarbayev ally sweeps Kazakh election amid protests

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev won over 70 per cent of the vote

Kazakhstan's acting President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev speaks to the media at a polling station during the presidential elections in Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan, Sunday, June 9, 2019. Kazakhstan's Presidential Press Office via AP
Kazakhstan's acting President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev speaks to the media at a polling station during the presidential elections in Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan, Sunday, June 9, 2019. Kazakhstan's Presidential Press Office via AP

Kazakhstan elected a chosen successor of longtime former president Nursultan Nazarbayev on Monday, winning over 70 per cent of the vote, after an election overshadowed by protests.

The country’s interim president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, won the snap election with 70.76 per cent of the vote, the Central Election Commission said on Monday, citing early results.

The new president faced six government-approved candidates. He cast his vote in the capital, Nur-Sultan, which was previously known as Astana but was renamed after Mr Nazabayev in March.

The election result came as a little surprise as predecessor Mr Nazarbayev has ruled over the country for nearly 30 years and still has great influence over Kazahk politics, acting as head of the governing party.

A total of about 500 protesters were detained by police yesterday in Nur-Sultan and Almaty, the latter is the largest city in the former Soviet republic, after people marched against the rule of Mr Nazarbayev and affiliates.

Mr Nazarbayev's political arch-rival, fugitive banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, had called for protests in cities across the nation on Sunday and Monday. The protests were the largest in the Central Asian country for years.

Mr Tokayev urged police to show restraint towards the protesters. Responding to concerns about the marches before the election, he said his administration would be "building up a dialogue with all those who support the government and those who are against the government".

Mr Tokayev, a 66-year-old career diplomat, took over as Kazakh leader in March after Mr Nazarbayev resigned in what was a regarded by many as a surprise move. The former leader was the only man to have led the country since it emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

"I have decided to give up my powers as president," Mr Nazarbayev said in a television address announcing his resignation.

"I see my task now in facilitating the rise of a new generation of leaders who will continue the reforms that are under way in the country,” he said.

Updated: June 10, 2019 02:29 PM

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