NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev has been inaugurated as Kazakhstan’s new president following an election that was marred by what international observers called “widespread voting irregularities” and the arrest of hundreds of peaceful protesters, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reports.
Tokayev, who was handpicked by former authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbayev to be his successor, took the oath of office on June 12 during a ceremony at the Palace of Independence in the capital, Nur-Sultan.
The 66-year-old took nearly 71 percent of the ballots in the June 9 early presidential election, according to official final results.
Tokayev’s landslide victory was widely expected after he received the blessing of Nazarbayev, who officially stepped down as president in March following almost 30 years in power.
Nazarbayev continues to hold many important political positions and still wields considerable power within the energy-rich Central Asian state and inside his political party, Nur-Otan, whose presidential candidate was Tokayev.
A wave of protests across Kazakhstan during the campaign period against the lack of fairness in the election continued during and after the snap presidential poll.
Two leading Kazakh human rights groups have urged the government to thoroughly investigate the detentions of hundreds of protesters, saying that police used “unnecessarily excessive violence against protesters” in Nur-Sultan, the country’s largest city, Almaty, and other towns and cities.
Kazakhstan’s Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law and Human Rights Charter Foundation said in a joint statement on June 11 that many of those arrested were kept for up to 10 hours without food, water, and contact with their relatives.
In their preliminary statement on the election, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said 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.”
None of the elections held in Kazakhstan since it became independent in 1991 has been deemed free or fair by international organizations.