Incumbent expected to win presidential election in Kazakhstan

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The incumbent president of Kazakhstan is widely expected to secure an easy victory in a snap election that came after bloody unrest shook the country and he moved to stifle the influence of his authoritarian predecessor.

Five candidates were on the ballot against President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. With a short campaign period that began in late October, they had little opportunity to mount significant challenges.

Tokayev, apparently confident of holding a strong advantage, stayed away from a nationally televised election debate.

The national elections commission said voter turnout averaged 69% in 10 of the country’s 15 regions by the time polls closed.

Kazakhstan Election
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev speaks to the media after voting at a polling station (Muhtor Holdorbekov/AP)

He pointedly said the country did not recognise the Ukrainian regions that Russia declared to be sovereign states at the outset of the conflict that began in February.

Kazakhstan has taken in hundreds of thousands of Russians who fled after President Vladimir Putin issued a conscription order in September.

When Tokayev became president in 2019 following the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, he was widely expected to continue the authoritarian course of the man who had led the resource-rich country since it gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Nazarbayev remained highly influential as head of the national security council, and the capital was renamed Nur-Sultan in his honor.

In January, provincial protests initially sparked by a fuel price rise engulfed other cities, notably the commercial capital, Almaty, and became overtly political as demonstrators shouted “Old man out!” in reference to Nazarbayev.

More than 220 people, mostly protesters, died as police harshly put down the unrest.

Amid the violence, Tokayev removed Nazarbayev from his security council post.

He restored the capital’s previous name of Astana, and the Parliament of Kazakhstan repealed a law granting Nazarbayev and his family immunity from prosecution.

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