Kassym-Jomart Tokayev the chosen successor of veteran ruler, Nursultan Nazarbayev has won a snap presidential election with nearly 71 percent of the total votes cast in Saturday’s presidential election in Kazakhstan.
Nazarbayev who retains sweeping powers and has ruled the oil-rich country for almost three decades, handpicked the 66-year-old Tokayev, a career diplomat as his successor when he stepped down in March this year.
Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter, Dariga became the Speaker of the Senate in March, the post previously held by Tokayev and members of the ex-president’s family control some key business assets including the country’s largest bank, Halyk.
In a power-sharing arrangement in the country, the 78-year-old Nazarbayev remains chairman of the influential Security Council and leads the ruling NurOtan party.
With Tokayev’s six rivals largely unknown to voters in Kazakhstan, opponents denounced the election as unfair, prompting public protests despite the country’s restrictive laws on freedom of expression.
During Sunday’s vote, police reportedly dispersed and arrested over 500 people at rallies in Almaty and Nur-Sultan, the capital city which was renamed after Nazarbayev at Tokayev’s suggestion.
On Monday, the number of protesters was much smaller as hundreds of policemen gathered at the Almaty park where Sunday’s had taken place.
The Kazakh state closely controls domestic politics and public discourse, therefore the vast majority of local media do not criticize Nazarbayev. Social media and online messaging platforms were also restricted during Sunday’s election.
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe which has routinely described Kazakh elections as neither free nor fair are due to hold a briefing on their findings.
Tokayev has however received congratulations from fellow Central Asian leaders such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan presidents.