Kazakhstan: Protesters call for presidential election boycott

ALMATY (TCA) — Dozens of protesters have been detained across Kazakhstan as several hundred people took to the streets to call for the release of all political prisoners and a boycott of the upcoming presidential election, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.

The May 1 protests were the largest in the Central Asia country since at least 2016, and an indication of growing discontent with the political system that has been dominated by Nursultan Nazarbayev since before the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Many of the protesters were focused on the upcoming June 9 snap election, which was scheduled following Nazarbayev’s sudden resignation in March.

In Almaty, crowds on May 1 gathered in Central Park and began to march through Kazakhstan’s largest city, shouting slogans such as “Shame,” “Boycott,” “Wake up Kazakhs,” and “Freedom for political prisoners.”

The demonstrators were stopped by police as they approached Pushkin Street and dozens of participants were detained.

Protesters were arrested during similar, unsanctioned rallies in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and the central city of Qaraghandy.

Protests were also held in Aqtobe in the north and Shymkent to the south. No arrests have been immediately reported there.

In Nur-Sultan, demonstrators rallied near the Astana Concert Hall and marched toward the local administration building, shouting slogans including “People are tired” and “down with the government.”

Nazarbayev, 78, still heads the ruling Nur Otan party, which on April 23 nominated interim President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev as its candidate in the early presidential election.

Tokayev is almost certain to win the vote in the tightly controlled country.

The only registered political party that casts itself as an opponent of the government has said that it will boycott the vote, suggesting that participating would make it a puppet of the state.

Opponents, critics, and rights groups say Nazarbayev, who has tolerated little dissent, denied many citizens basic rights, and prolonged his power in the energy-rich country of 18.7 million by manipulating the democratic process.

No vote held in the Central Asian country since 1991 has been deemed democratic by international observers.

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Times of Central Asia