Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Hand-picked successor sweeps Kazakh vote criticised by monitors

(AFP Photo/VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO)

NUR-SULTAN: The hand-picked successor of Kazakhstan’s longtime ruler won a sweeping victory in presidential elections that monitors said had shown “scant respect” for democracy.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev took 70.8 percent, the Central Election Commission said, in elections Sunday marred by a police crackdown.

His nearest rival, opposition candidate Amirzhan Kosanov took 16.2 percent.

At a post-victory press conference, Tokayev insisted he was the “fully mandated president” of the oil-rich Central Asian country of 18 million people.

But he will likely play second fiddle to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country’s 78-year-old president of three decades who shocked Kazakhs with his abrupt retirement in March.

Tokayev told reporters Sunday that Nazarbayev, who turned Kazakhstan into an energy powerhouse while governing with little tolerance for opposition, was “still in power in the capacity of chairman of the security council… and other capacities”.

Sunday saw hundreds of arrests after the biggest protests in Kazakhstan in at least three years, as demonstrators urged a boycott of what they said was a fixed election.

The interior ministry said about 500 people were arrested in protests in the capital Nur-Sultan and in Almaty, the biggest city, organised by what it described as “radical elements”.

An AFP correspondent witnessed scores more people arrested on Monday.

“A lack of regard for fundamental rights, including detentions of peaceful protesters, and widespread voting irregularities on election day, showed scant respect for democratic standards,” said observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Tokayev, however, thanked the police for putting down protests he said were influenced “from the outside” — a reference to Nazarbayev’s foreign-based political opponent Mukhtar Ablyazov.

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