Kazakhstan prepares for presidential elections

Kazakhstan Prepares for Snap Presidential Election: 74-year-old Nazarbayev has held power since 1989

Opposition candidates were not admitted to the elections, the obvious winner – protege of former President Nazarbayev

Preparations are underway in Kazakhstan for the presidential elections to be held next Sunday. For the first time in 30 years, residents of the country will have to choose a new leader to replace Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned in March. However, the ex-president continues to actively influence the political processes taking place in the country: most likely, the new head of state will become «heir» Nazarbayeva, 66-year-old career diplomat Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev.

Tokayev nominated for election by the ruling party in Kazakhstan «Nur Otan», which was chaired by Nursultan Nazarbayev. The names of his six rivals, including one moderate opposition figure, say little to the people of Kazakhstan..

Tokayev is supported by famous pop singers and film actors in the country. The entire state apparatus is working for his victory, AFP notes..

For years, the Nazarbayev regime has suppressed civil rights and press freedom in the country. Mass protests have intensified in the past five years due to the economic downturn associated with declining oil prices and the crisis in neighboring Russia.

«I don’t think we can take these elections as legitimate», – says Kasymkhan Kapparov, director of the independent Kazakhstani Bureau of Economic Research. In an interview with French news agency AFP, Kapparov said the authorities are urging public sector employees, including teachers and doctors, to vote for Tokayev, and «volunteers», those working for his headquarters receive payment from the state budget.

«I am actively boycotting this election», – said in an interview with AFP, 24-year-old Almaty resident Temujin Duisenov, who was detained last year for participating in anti-government protests. According to Duissenov, Tokayev announced the upcoming June elections only in April, thereby not giving the local opposition a chance to prepare for the vote..

«None of the candidates I would support would have been able to prepare for the election campaign [in two months]», – says Duisenov.

Nazarbayev’s powerful opponent, Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, who fled abroad, called on residents of major cities to take part in protests on election day.

A former foreign minister in the Nazarbayev government, Tokayev is campaigning with the slogan of «continuity» authorities, emphasizing the fact that he will continue the tradition of the rule of Nursultan Nazarbayev («endless triumph» – by definition of state propaganda). Tokayev has already promised that Nazarbayev, who heads the Security Council of Kazakhstan for life and, according to the constitution, is «Leader of the nation» («Elbasy») will play a decisive role in making the most important political decisions.

Kazakhstan prepares for presidential elections

The only presidential candidate who has been seen criticizing the authorities in the past – journalist Amirzhan Kosanov. However, representatives of the opposition have already criticized him for «dull» a campaign in which Kosanov escaped with general criticism of the regime, not daring to address reproaches personally to Tokayev or his predecessor.

According to Kazakh human rights activist Sergei Duvanov, he discussed with Kosanov possible options for the campaign, but «a week after registration, he disappeared from sight and hid in a village in the north [of Kazakhstan]», – Duvanov told AFP.

Kosanov himself denied allegations that he made a deal with the regime and said in an interview with AFR about the importance of people voting for him, and not boycotting the elections..

«I do not know how the elections will be held, and how many violations there will be, but it is important for the regime to see that it needs to reckon with the people.», – says the candidate.

For the first time in the history of Kazakhstan, a woman will participate in the presidential elections. Dania Espaeva became a candidate from the pro-government party «Ak Zhol».