Kazakhstan saw the largest protests in the country in the past three years tackled by the authorities with hundreds of arrests.
The largest Central Asian former Soviet republic, Kazakhstan, has elected Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the protégé of the nation’s decades-long leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, in a vote marred by arrests of protesters.
Earlier this year, Nazarbayev resigned as President of Kazakhstan after holding the post for 30 years, but retained several other positions keeping him the most powerful person in the second largest successor state of the former Soviet Union by territory after Russia.
Nazarbayer, 78, remains “Leader of the Nation”, Chairman of the National Security Council - a job holding even more powers than the Presidency, and Chairman of the ruling political party, Nur Otan Democratic People’s Party. To honor his role in Kazakhstan’s history, the Kazakh Parliament even renamed the capital city Astana to “Nursultan”.
65-year-old Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Parliament Speaker who succeeded Nazarbayev as interim President, was elected in his own right in Sunday’s vote.
He won 70.76% (6,504,054 votes) in the presidential election with a voter turnout of 77.4%, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
Opposition candidate, who was the nearest challenger of Tokayev, Amirzhan Kosanov, remained second with 16.2% of the votes.
According to Vladimir Norov, Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an intergovernmental body uniting Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and four of the five former Soviet states in Central Asia, there were “no irregularities” during Sunday’s presidential election in Kazakhstan.
“No irregularities have been recorded that could throw the election’s legitimacy into question. The mission recognizes the election as transparent, credible and democratic,” Norov stated, referring to the SCO observer mission during the vote.
However, while Tokayev’s victory was completely expected, however, Sunday’s election day in Kazakhstan actually saw the largest anti-government protests in the country in the past three years, with demonstrators calling for boycott of the vote saying it had been fixed.
Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry said some 500 people had been arrested on Sunday, including two AFP journalists who were detained in the largest city Almaty, AFP and France24 reported.
Other detainees included journalists for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and an independent local news site were also arrested, a representative of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee rights group and a local political analyst.
According to Deputy Interior Minister Marat Kozhayev, the protesters were “radical elements” who were taken into custody for holding “unsanctioned” rallies.
“Shame, shame, shame!” and “Police come to the side of the people” were the chants of the protesters are the police began tackling their crowd.
“You can see what is happening here. People are against this illegal election. You can see what the police are doing here!” Aman Amanov, a protester in Almaty, said as he was filmed while being ushered into a police van.
No vote in Kazakhstan has ever been recognized as fully democratic by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which also monitored Sunday’s election with 300 observers.
“Kazakh authorities routinely break up peaceful protests, forcibly round up participants… and sanction them with warnings, fines, and short-term imprisonment,” said international NGO Human Rights Watch.
(Banner image: TV grab from France24)