Tokayev easily wins Kazakhstan presidential election

Astana, Nov 20 (EFE).- Kazakhstan President Kasim-Yomart Tokayev was reelected Sunday, as expected, with between 82 percent and 85.5 percent of the votes, according to exit polling.

Tokayev, who came to power in 2019, will now lead the largest Central Asian republic until 2029, with a new constitutional amendment having limited presidential mandates, starting with this election, to a single seven-year term.

Kazakhs voted to provided continuity for the timid democratic reforms undertaken earlier this year by Tokayev, who is trying to pull his country – which constitutes the economic engine for Central Asia – out of its political and economic stagnation.

Astana maintains close ties with both Moscow and Beijing, but it also openly cooperates with the West.

Tokayev overwhelmingly won reelection, with the second biggest vote-getter obtaining just 5.2 percent of the ballots, while the other five candidates, including two women and no opposition figures, garnered between 1.4 percent and 3.7 percent, according to three different demographic institutes.

“I believe that seven years will be enough. It’s a long period of time in the life of any person. The most important thing is that there will be no monopoly on power in our country,” Tokayev told reporters after depositing his ballot at his precinct on Sunday morning in the Kazakh capital.

The 69-year-old technocrat said that there will be changes in his administration after the vote and that, with an eye toward the legislative elections in 2023, nine political parties will be registered.

Those promises contrasted with the fact that none of his five rivals in the presidential election were opposition figures and that several opposition activists on the eve of the vote were placed under two weeks of house arrest.

Tokayev pressed for the approval of a new law regarding the return of capital illegally removed from the country, with the government leveling such accusations at oligarchs and top officials linked to the family of Kazakhstan’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, with some estimates placing that family’s total net worth to be on the order of tens of billions of dollars.

Despite the fact that Tokayev has dislodged from power many officials and other figures close to Nazarbayev, on Sunday he noted that the former president had “voluntarily” given up power three years ago.

“This is very important for the future of the Kazakh people. We have independence, of course, the state and the capital were build on my orders, but much work remains to be done,” he said.

In addition, he backed the pursuit of those engaged in corruption, characterizing as “fair” the six-year prison sentence handed down against his son-in-law Kairat Satibaldiuli for embezzlement and tax evasion.

One negative element in the day’s voting was the fact that the country’s second city, Almaty, which was the scene of violent protests last January, saw only 28.72 percent of the electorate turn out.

The residents of Almaty, which was Kazakhstan’s capital until 1997, are still angry with the authorities for poorly managing the January crisis, during which 240 people died, including many innocent passersby.

According to press reports, about a dozen activists – who were arrested on Sunday in Almaty – demanded free elections and blamed the president for the spilling of blood during the riots.

Preliminary figures indicate that about 69.43 percent of Kazakh voters went to the polls on Sunday, that is to say about 8.3 million of the almost 12 million eligible voters.

Also standing in the elections were Nurlan Auesbaev, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party; Saltanat Tursinbekova, a former civil servant who advocated combating domestic violence; Qaraqat Abden, with the Alliance of Social Workers; Zhiguli Dairabayev of the ruling patriotic Auil party, and Meiram Kazhiken, the candidate presented by the Kazakh trade unions.

EFE kk-mos/bp

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