06/10/2019, 13.11
KAZAKHSTAN
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Tokayev elected president amid protests and arrests with almost 71 per cent of the vote

The protégé of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the former Soviet Republic for 30 years, the new head of state studied in Moscow and worked for a UN agency. In this election, he was up against six relatively unknown candidates.

Nur-Sultan (AsiaNews) – Unsurprisingly, acting Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was re-elected with 70.76 per cent of the vote, Central Election Commission (CEC) Deputy Chairman Konstantin Petrov announced today at briefing on preliminary election results. The election, which was held yesterday, was marred by protests and arrests in the country’s main cities.

Tokayev is the Kazakhstan’s second president after Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the former Soviet Republic for almost 30 years until last March, winning landslide after landslide.

The vote took place in more than 10,000 polling stations at home and Kazakh diplomatic missions abroad. Over 12 million voters were eligible to vote out of a population of 18.7 million. Voter turnout at 8 pm stood at 77 per cent, the CEC reported.

Protests broke out in the capital and in Almaty, the country’s largest city. According to the opposition, thousands of people took part in the street action.

Deputy Interior Minister Marat Kozhayev said 500 people were arrested at "unsanctioned rallies”.

This is a rare show of dissent in a country where former president Nazarbayev ruled with an iron fist, limiting democratic life, as well as freedom of the press, association and worship.

At the same time, the former president encouraged economic development driven mainly by Kazakhstan’s immense oil and natural gas reserves.

Tokayev, 66, a former speaker of the Senate, was the candidate for the Nur-Otan ruling party, as well as the favourite in the elections.

The new president studied in Moscow and has a background in international diplomacy as deputy director of the United Nations Office in Geneva (from 2011 to 2013). He was also Prime Minister of Kazakhstan from 1999 to 2002, and Senate Speaker for two terms (2007-2011 and 2013-2019).

As Nazarbayev’s protégé, he was picked by the former president as acting head of state to lead the country until the elections of 9 June.

In tribute to his predecessor, Tokayev's first act as Kazakhstan’s leader was to rename the capital Astana to Nur-Sultan, a decision that caused widespread discontent.

His rivals are largely unknown. The CEC preliminary results show that Amirzhan Kossanov of the Ult Tagdyry United National Patriotic Movement received 16.02 per cent of the vote, Daniya Yespayeva of the Ak Zhol Democratic Party received 5.2 per cent, Toleutai Rakhimbekov of the Auyl (Village) Party received 3.2 per cent, Amangeldy Taspikhov of the Kazakh Trade Unions Federation received 2.07 per cent, Zhambyl Akhmetbekov of the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan received 1.82 per cent, and Sadybek Tugel of the Uly Dala Kyrandary (Eagles of the Great Steppe) Public Association received 0.92 per cent.

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