Kazakhstan: More arrests in Almaty overnight amid protests against election results

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (TCA) — Reports from Kazakhstan say authorities have been arresting demonstrators in some districts of the country’s largest city, Almaty, after hundreds of people gathered to protest the official results of the June 9 presidential election, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.

Video posted on social media from Almaty early on June 11 local time showed dozens of people running in the streets and being pursued by a special police unit.

The arrests in the early morning hours came after more than 100 protesters had gathered outside a police building in Almaty late on June 10 to demand the release of a popular folk singer named Rinat Zaitov.

Zaitov was among dozens of demonstrators arrested earlier on June 10 after gathering in the center of Almaty to protest the official results of the election, which international observers said was “tarnished” by “clear violations of fundamental freedoms.”

Zaitov was eventually released and asked the demonstrators to return to their homes shortly before the arrests began.

Citing preliminary results, election authorities said on June 10 that interim President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev, former President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s handpicked successor, had won more than 70 percent of the vote.

The June 9 election was marred by the arrest of hundreds of anti-government protesters.

Tokayev’s landslide victory was widely expected after he received the blessing of Nazarbayev, who officially stepped down as president in March after ruling Kazakhstan for nearly 30 years.

Nazarbayev continues to hold many important political positions and still wields considerable power within the country and inside his political party, Nur-Otan, whose presidential candidate was Tokayev.

Talking to journalists in Nur-Sultan on June 10, Tokayev said the election-day protests by hundreds of demonstrators in Almaty, Shymkent, and other cities were “illegal” and had been staged by people who were “misled by information from abroad.”

Tokayev expressed “gratitude” to police officers who he said “performed their duties properly during the demonstrations.”

“In future they will operate in the same way,” Tokayev said.

Tokayev also said his inauguration would take place on June 12, provided that the Central Election Commission announces the final official results by then.

Meanwhile, dozens rallied in Almaty’s Old Square on June 10 for a second day, as police and National Guard officers cordoned off the site and a nearby park.

People driving their vehicles around the square honked their horns in support of the protesters.

An ambulance was called to assist one demonstrator who had cut his wrist after he was detained by officers.

In the capital, Nur-Sultan, dozens of people also gathered at a central square that was cordoned off by police.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement that “a lack of regard for fundamental rights, including detentions of peaceful protesters, and widespread voting irregularities on election day, showed scant respect for democratic standards.”

“While there were seven candidates, including for the first time a woman, the election showed that there is a need for genuine democratic consolidation and significant political, social and legal reforms,” said George Tsereteli, special coordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observer mission.

Hundreds of protesters calling for free and fair elections were detained in Almaty, Nur-Sultan, and the southern city of Shymkent, with Deputy Interior Minister Marat Qozhaev calling the demonstrators “radically-minded elements.”

Sergey Kwan

TCA