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Tokayev wins Kazakh presidential vote with 70.8%

AFP , Monday 10 Jun 2019
Police
Police officers detain an opposition supporter on June 10, 2019 (Photo: AFP)
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Kazakhstan elected the hand-picked successor of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev with more than 70 percent of the vote, electoral authorities said on Monday, after an election day marred by protests.

The country's Central Election Commission said that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev received 70.76 percent of the vote and his nearest challenger, opposition candidate Amirzhan Kosanov, 16.2 percent.

Tokayev's victory was never in doubt after he received the blessing of powerful Nazarbayev, who had led the Central Asian nation for the last three decades.

But the vote day Sunday was marked by the biggest protests the Muslim-majority country has seen in at least three years, as demonstrators urged a boycott of what they said was a fixed election.

The build-up to the vote saw an intensifying crackdown on the opposition with courts sentencing protesters to short stays in jail and police raiding activists' homes.

The interior ministry said that about 500 people were arrested on Sunday, with deputy minister Marat Kozhayev blaming "radical elements" for holding "unsanctioned" rallies.

Two AFP journalists were among those detained in the largest city, Almaty, where police broke up a protest involving several hundred people.

Journalists for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and an independent local news site were also arrested, as was a representative of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee rights group and a local political analyst.

They were all later released.

Nazarbayev's announcement in March that he was stepping down from the presidency and naming Tokayev interim leader shocked Kazakhs who had lived under his rule since Soviet times.

But the 78-year-old, who turned the country of 18 million people into an energy powerhouse while governing with little tolerance for opposition, is still expected to call the shots from behind the scenes.

No Kazakh vote has ever been recognised as fully democratic by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which sent more than 300 observers to monitor this election.

The OSCE mission is expected to provide its verdict on the polls at 0900 GMT on Monday.

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