Tue, Jun 11, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Tokayev sweeps Kazakh election as OSCE criticizes vote

‘COMPETITION’:Activists denounced the arrests of hundreds of protesters, while an official blamed ‘radical elements’ for holding illegal rallies

AFP, NUR-SULTAN

Police officers detain an opposition supporter in Almaty, Kazakhstan, yesterday, a day after the presidential elections.

Photo: AFP

The hand-picked successor of Kazakhstan’s longtime ruler won a sweeping victory in a presidential election, but the vote was marred by a police crackdown, which monitors yesterday said showed “scant respect” for democracy.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev took 70.8 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election, the Kazakh Central Election Commission said, well ahead of his nearest rival, opposition candidate Amirzhan Kosanov, with 16.2 percent.

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

“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,” observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said.

Tokayev’s victory was never in doubt after he received the blessing of former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the Central Asian nation for three decades before his shock resignation in March.

The Kazakh Ministry of the Interior said that about 500 people were arrested on Sunday, with Kazakh Deputy Minister Marat Kozhayev blaming “radical elements” for holding “unsanctioned” rallies.

An Agence France-Presse correspondent saw scores more arrested yesterday, several of whom did not appear to be attempting to protest.

Activists denounced the arrests and made claims of ballot stuffing, but Tokayev insisted the election had been “a competition.”

“This shows that our level of political culture has seriously increased. There is much work ahead,” he said in comments broadcast on state television.

Authorities said they would investigate all allegations of vote violations.

No vote in Kazakhstan has ever been recognized as fully democratic by the OSCE, which sent more than 300 observers to monitor this election.

Tokayev’s opponents were quick to congratulate him on victory, including second-place finisher Kosanov, a journalist who presented himself as the ballot’s sole opposition candidate.

“This political transition will take place with the participation of the people,” Kosanov said, criticizing “foreign-based” opposition figures who had encouraged voters to boycott the poll.

“People are ready for an equal dialogue with authorities,” he said in an interview shown on state television.

Kosanov had previously said that if the count was fair, the result would go to a second round.

Third place was claimed by Daniya Yespayeva, the first female candidate in a Kazakh presidential election, who scored 5.2 percent of the ballot, the commission said.

Despite a relatively high turnout of 77 percent announced by the commission, many citizens in Nur-Sultan and Almaty told AFP that they had not voted.

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