The successor chosen by the former head of state, Nursultan Nazarbayev, seems sure to win despite the presence of six other candidates.
Hundreds of opposition protesters were arrested on Sunday (June 9th) in Kazakhstan, where the first presidential election takes place after Nursultan Nazarbayev's 30 years in power. This day of election will have been marked by the most important gatherings that this former Soviet republic of Central Asia has known in three years.
The Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalists saw the police arresting and driving in vehicles hundreds of people in the first two cities of Kazakhstan, Almaty and the capital Astana. One of the AFP correspondents was briefly arrested before being released, while another was confiscated his video equipment.
Two Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty journalists, Petr Trotsenko in Almaty and Saniya Toiken in Astana, were also detained and released, along with Marius Fossum of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Several other journalists or political activists have been arrested, some still in detention. According to a Deputy Minister of the Interior, Marat Kojayev, "About a hundred" protesters were apprehended in both cities. " Shame ! Shame ! Shame ! " or "The police on our side! "shouted some demonstrators in Almaty before the police dispersed the rally.
Since the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan is experiencing a rare social unrest that has led to a stiffening of the authorities. The most virulent opponent of the regime, former exiled banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, had called for protests on Sunday.
A political transition described as "an illusion"
Several protests sparked the election campaign, prompting a harsh response from the authorities, which intensified the crackdown on the media and opponents in the weeks leading up to the vote. In a statement, the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) explained that the idea of a political transition was " An illusion " and highlighted the continuation of human rights violations under the interim presidency of Mr. Tokayev:
"Kazakh authorities routinely interrupt peaceful protests, forcibly drag their participants – sometimes tying their hands and feet – and punish them with fines and short prison sentences. "
But even if this day of election is marked by important demonstrations, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the successor chosen by the former head of state, is almost assured of winning despite the presence six other candidates.
One real opponent
Mr. Tokayev, 66, a former career diplomat, faces six opponents but none is known to the general public and only one can be considered a real opponent. Conversely, the interim president was able to count on the support of many celebrities and on the resources of the state, made available to him for his election campaign.
However, it will seem difficult to do as well as the former Kazakh president, first elected in 1991 and re-elected four times with scores exceeding 80%. In 2015, in a context of economic difficulties, Nursultan Nazarbayev obtained 98% of the votes for a participation rate of 95%.
These elections have never been recognized as free and fair by international observers and it is likely that the same will apply to international elections. According to one of the two polling bodies authorized to operate, Mr Tokayev is credited with nearly 73% of the votes.