Kazakhstan: Election day protests of vote bring 500 arrests

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MOSCOW — Police detained about 500 people amid unauthorized protests in Kazakhstan of the presidential election that opponents alleged 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 some 500 demonstrators were taken to police stations. There were no immediate reports on whether charges were being filed.

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 longtime president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned in March.

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

Seven candidates were on the ballot, including a genuine opposition figure for the first time since independence. The national elections commission reported the election’s turnout was about 77 percent of the electorate.

The resignation of the 78-year-old 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 Sunday 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,” Kossanov said.

Preliminary results were expected early Monday.

Kazakhstan has experienced rising opposition sentiment recently. Anti-government rallies were held in the spring to protest what opponents saw as an orchestrated handover of power and to call for a boycott of the early presidential vote.

One of the most prosperous former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan stands at a crossroads between neighbors China and Russia.


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