Kazakh police arrest hundreds of election protesters
Kazakhstan’s deputy interior minister Marat Kozhayev said three police were injured in clashes and 500 people had been detained at “unsanctioned rallies”. Protesters claimed it was a fake election for the country’s 12 million registered voters.
Protesters were reportedly dragged along the ground onto buses.
The Nur Otan party rules the one-party state and Kazakhstan has never held an election that has been judged free and fair by independent observers.
The veteran, 78-year-old former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, stepped down in March, sparking an election.
He selected 66-year-old Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as his successor, who faced yesterday’s rubber-stamp election.
“I want to change this regime that we’ve had for 30 years,” said an unnamed young woman at a demonstration in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.
The Central Election Commission said Tokayev, a former director general of the United Nations in Geneva, received 70.8 per cent of the vote and his nearest challenger, opposition candidate Amirzhan Kosanov, received 16.2 per cent.
Nazarbayev won 98 per cent of the vote, where turnout was 95 per cent, in his last election, which was dismissed as rigged by international monitors.
Human Rights Watch said the talk of a genuine political transition was “an illusion” and said there had been persistence of rights abuses under Tokayev’s new presidency.
“Kazakh authorities routinely break up peaceful protests, forcibly round up participants, sometimes literally binding their hands and feet, and sanction them with warnings, fines and short-term imprisonment,” the US-based rights group said.
Many suspect Nazarbayev will retain power behind the scenes and he wants to install his politician daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva (pictured), as president.
Nur Otan controls the media, access to the internet and the police, who regularly arrest those who attend opposition events.
Chris Rickleton, a British journalist with AFP, was detained and received a black eye during his arrest.
A campaign calling for reform has sprung up on Twitter, #qazaqkoktemi (Kazakh spring) and #menoyandim (I’ve woken). A movement called Wake Up, Qazaqstan has emerged, calling for democratic reforms.
“Wake up” is in reference to a 1909 poem about Russian colonial rule, “Wake up, Kazakh! Think, Kazakh! Be, Kazakh! We are a nation that has forgotten its freedom.”
Anuar Nurpeisov, an actor behind the Instagram campaign, said: “This generation is tired of living under the leadership of people who grew up in the Soviet Union.”
Dariga Nazarbayeva. Picture credit: Wikimedia