Polling stations opened today in Kazakhstan, the largest country in Central Asia, for early presidential elections in which almost 12 million Kazakhs are called to vote.
The polls opened at 07:00 local time (01:00 GMT) and will close at 20:00 local time (14:00 GMT), according to the Central Election Commission.
Kazakhstan’s president, Kasim-Yomart Tokayev, brought the elections forward after a constitutional referendum in June in which a majority of Kazakhs backed political reforms.
Among other things, he increased the presidential periods from five to seven years, although as of Sunday the heads of state will only be able to remain in charge of the country for one term.
Tokayev, who will face five other candidates on Sunday, two of them women, but no opponent, is the clear favorite for victory. So much so that he did not even have to participate in the television debate held this week.
Nurlán Auesbáev, candidate of the Social Democratic Party, will also attend the elections; Saltanat Tursinbekova, a former civil servant who advocates on her program to combat domestic violence; Qaraqat Abden, candidate of the Alliance of Social Workers; Zhiguli Dairabáev, from the official Auil patriotic party, and Meiram Kazhiken, presented by the Kazakh unions.
According to analysts, none of these five candidates is in opposition. In fact, several opposition activists were arrested during the campaign and sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest.
During these three years Tokáyev has evicted from power almost all the people close to the father of the nation, Nursultan Nazarbayev, relegated to the background since 2019.
In an attempt to break with the past, he changed the name of the country’s capital, which returned to its post-Soviet name, Astana, after receiving Nur-Sultan in March 2019, an example of Nazarbayev’s cult of personality.
Tokayev has called on Kazakhs not to participate in protests for fear of a repeat of the violent riots last January, which forced him to request the intervention of the post-Soviet Collective Security Treaty Organization, led by Russia.
According to local media, the opposition in exile has called an anti-government protest for Sunday noon in the country’s capital.
Tokáev, who recently defended Ukraine’s territorial integrity before Russian President Vladimir Putin, received this week in Astana the support of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.