Kazakhstan Will get New Chief, however Previous System’s Grip on Energy Stays

MOSCOW — Dominated by the identical authoritarian chief for the reason that 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan lastly has a brand new president, with lopsided election outcomes launched on Monday confirming the victory of the outdated order’s handpicked candidate in a tightly managed vote marred by a whole bunch of detentions.

Preliminary official outcomes from Sunday’s vote confirmed that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the governing occasion’s chosen successor to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, had received 70.7 p.c of the vote, far forward of his nearest rival, an formally sanctioned opposition candidate, Amirzhan Kosanov, who acquired solely 16 p.c.

Mr. Nazarbayev, the nation’s 78-year-old former Communist Social gathering chief, introduced in March that he was handing over his presidential powers to Mr. Tokayev, whereas retaining his posts as head of the safety council and the governing occasion.

The lopsided end result and heavy-handed police motion on Sunday towards peaceable protesters counsel that whereas the nation’s veteran chief has relinquished the presidency, the system he established throughout his 28 years in workplace stays firmly place. Earlier than turning into president, he served because the chief of the Communist Social gathering in Kazakhstan, which was then part of the Soviet Union.

Keen to move off protests throughout a vote that the opposition denounced as a farce rigged in favor of Mr. Tokayev, the authorities shut down Fb and Telegram, a cellular messaging service, in an effort to muzzle requires public shows of dissent.

The result of Sunday’s election, like these of all earlier elections within the nation, was by no means doubtful, regardless of efforts by Mr. Tokayev, 66, a former prime minister and overseas minister below Mr. Nazarbayev, to advertise a considerably softer picture than his predecessor and mentor.

“If there are folks chanting such slogans, that’s their alternative,” Mr. Tokayev advised the Kazakh service of Radio Liberty, a United States-funded media outlet. Safety forces, nevertheless, moved swiftly throughout voting on Sunday to silence all such chants.

Round 500 folks have been detained, together with a variety of Kazakh and overseas journalists, throughout abortive protest efforts within the nation’s capital, previously often called Astana however lately renamed Nur-Sultan in honor of the previous president, and Almaty, the enterprise capital.

One overseas journalist, Chris Rickleton, a correspondent for the French information company AFP and a contributor to Eurasianet, a information web site targeted on the area, tweeted an image of himself in a police van together with his face bruised. He mentioned the bruise had adopted a “tough arrest,” including that he was not overwhelmed intentionally, however fell on the knee of an arresting officer.

Most of these detained have been launched with out being charged.

The federal government blamed the Democratic Alternative of Kazakhstan, a foreign-based opposition group that authorities have designated as an extremist group, for the clashes between the police and protesters.

The Kazakh state information media quoted the primary deputy inside minister, Marat Kozhayev, as saying that “fugitive leaders of this group” had orchestrated “socially disruptive rallies” and “launched into a significant propaganda push to discredit the authorities.”

The one actual query within the election, observers mentioned, was the scale of Mr. Tokayev’s victory and whether or not he can be allowed to come back near matching Mr. Nazarbayev, who received 97.7 p.c of the vote within the final presidential ballot in 2015.

Whereas illiberal of public dissent, Mr. Nazarbayev largely averted the systematic brutality of different Central Asian dictators like Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan, who died in 2016, and Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, who died in 2006. He additionally received real help from many Kazakhs for retaining their nation secure and overseeing its transformation from a poor Soviet satrapy into an rising and, because of income from oil, comparatively affluent regional energy.

The entire area’s first era of post-Soviet leaders have been former senior Communist Social gathering officers who mutated into champions of independence because the Soviet Union crumbled. Mr. Tokayev studied in Moscow and served within the Soviet overseas ministry however was by no means a senior determine within the occasion.

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