Tuesday 23 July 2019

Hundreds arrested in Kazakhstan vote protest

Dragged: Police officers detain an opposition supporter during a protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo: Reuters
Dragged: Police officers detain an opposition supporter during a protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo: Reuters

Olzhas Auyezov

Police arrested about 500 people amid "unauthorised" protests in Kazakhstan about a presidential election that opponents claim was a fake exercise in democracy.

Officers, some in riot gear with shields and helmets, broke up the demonstrations in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and Almaty, the country's main commercial city.

Deputy Interior Minister Marat Kozhayev said three police were injured in the clashes and 500 demonstrators taken to police stations.

The protesters were calling for a voter boycott of the snap election, which they alleged was staged to put in office a politician loyal to the former long-time president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned in March.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the upper house speaker who became acting president when Mr Nazarbayev stepped down, is expected to easily win yesterday's contest.

Seven candidates were on the ballot, including a genuine opposition figure for the first time since independence.

The national elections commission reported turnout was about 77pc.

The resignation of the 78-year-old Mr Nazarbayev, who had led Kazakhstan since it separated from the Soviet Union to become an independent country in 1991, came as a surprise to many, who expected him to run for re-election next year.

The opposition candidate, Amirzhan Kossanov, said he had no complaints about violations during the campaign.

"But the most important result, the peak of the election political process, is counting of the votes," he added.

Preliminary results were expected early today.

Irish Independent

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