Kazakh leader heading for landslide victory in snap election, polls show – National


Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was heading for a landslide victory in a snap election on Sunday, exit polls showed, tightening his grip on power less than a year after ousting his longtime predecessor Nur-Sultan Nazarbayev.

The former diplomat, who came to power in 2019 as Nazarbayev’s hand-picked successor when the Central Asian nation’s only leader since the Soviet era stepped down, broke with his ex-boss after a January uprising which Tokayev called a coup attempt.

Another election victory – polls showed him winning between 82% and 85% of the vote – will give Tokayev, 69, the kind of crushing personal mandate that Nazarbayev has regularly obtained as he built a cult of personality during five successive terms.

Nazarbayev, who had held important posts after his resignation, abandoned them during the uprising earlier this year in which 238 people died. Tokayev has since forced Nazarbayev’s allies to give up other posts and changed the name of the capital – renamed « Nur-Sultan » in Nazarbayev’s honor – back to Astana.

The story continues under the ad

Tokaev appealed for Russian help to quell the January unrest, but has since kept his distance from Moscow, avoiding public support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Russia is Kazakhstan’s largest trading partner, and Russia’s slide into recession has hurt its neighbor’s economy, while the strength of the ruble RUB=, boosted by capital controls, has helped push inflation in Kazakhstan at its highest level in 14 years.

Tokayev, a former foreign minister and deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, has overseen constitutional reforms that limit his own rule to two terms. He also promised to reduce income inequality by stamping out corruption and redistributing wealth more fairly in the country of 19 million people.

The presidential election was originally scheduled for the end of 2024, but was brought forward after the January unrest and a subsequent constitutional referendum. Tokayev said on Sunday that he would continue to « reset » the political system by calling early parliamentary elections next year. Tokayev left the ruling Amanat party this year and oversaw reforms that facilitated the creation of new political parties.

Opinion polls predicted that none of the other five candidates would achieve a double-digit score in Sunday’s vote.

« Among those running for president, I only know Tokayev, first, » said Timerlan Sadykov, a resident of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, on the eve of the vote.

« And secondly, the way he has performed on the international stage has been very appealing. »

The story continues under the ad

Another Almaty voter, a 35-year-old manager who gave only his first name, Serik, said he voted against all candidates.

.. I think the powers that be have to realize that they gave us no real choice,” he said.

Police arrested a few dozen people in Almaty who staged small-scale protests against the vote, calling it illegal, according to opposition groups and local media. Police said some were quickly released, while others faced misdemeanor charges.

By the time polling stations closed across Kazakhstan at 9 p.m. local time, 69.4% of voters had cast their ballots, the Central Election Commission said. Preliminary results of the vote are expected on Monday.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov and Mariya Gordeyeva Additional reporting by Tamara Vall in Astana Editing by Peter Graff, Frances Kerry, Alexander Smith and Paul Simao)


Back to top button