President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is expected to win Sunday’s election against five little-known candidates.
Polls have closed in Kazakhstan, where incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is expected to secure an easy victory in a snap election, consolidating his grip on power less than a year after sidelining his long-standing authoritarian predecessor.
Sunday’s election comes after bloody riots have rocked the country this year and Tokayev has moved to quell the influence of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Five candidates were on the ballot against Tokayev, but with a short campaign period beginning in late October, they had few opportunities to present meaningful challenges. Opinion polls have predicted that none of the other five candidates would score double digits.
Tokayev, apparently confident of having a big lead, stayed away from a nationally televised election debate.
The former diplomat, who came to power in 2019 as Nazarbayev’s handpicked successor when the country’s only ruler since the Soviet era stepped down, broke with his former employer after a January uprising that Tokayev called a coup attempt.
A new election victory, a foregone conclusion against the five little-known candidates, will give Tokayev, 69, the kind of landslide personal mandate Nazarbayev routinely won while building a cult of personality for five consecutive terms.
Tokayev said on Sunday that he would continue to “reset” the political system by calling early parliamentary elections next year. Tokayev resigned from the ruling Amanat party this year and oversaw reforms that made it easier for new political parties to be established.
The national electoral commission said some 69 percent of the electorate had voted by the end of the day (1400 GMT). Data from various exit polls will be released after midnight (18:00 GMT) and preliminary results of the vote are expected on Monday.
The election for a seven-year term comes as Tokayev has moved to keep distance between Kazakhstan and its longtime ally and dominant regional power, Russia. Tokayev appealed for Russia’s help in quelling the riots, but he has since avoided publicly endorsing Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Russia is Kazakhstan’s largest trading partner, and the Russian recession has hurt Kazakhstan’s economic growth, while the ruble’s strength fueled by capital controls has helped push inflation in Kazakhstan to a 14-year high.
Police detained a few dozen people who staged small-scale protests against the vote in Almaty, calling it illegal, according to opposition groups and local media. Police said some were released early, while others faced misdemeanor charges.
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