Kazakhstan elects new president under the watch of international observers

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Photo: Reuters
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Photo: Reuters

18 million Kazakhstanis will head to the polls today in the first presidential election since the resignation of President Nursultan Nazarbayev on March 19.

A record seven candidates are slotted to compete in the vote. Among the candidates include front-runner and interim President Qasym-Jomart Tokayev, longtime opposition leader and moderate Amirzhan Kosanov and Dania Espayeva, the first woman to run for the presidency in Kazakhstan’s history.

The Central Elections Commission of Kazakhstan has promised a step forward in the peaceful transition of power from Nazarbayev, who has led Kazakhstan since its independence in 1991. However, a shorter campaign period, restrictions on opposition activism and independent media and uneven resources granted to Mr Tokayev have caused observers to remain sceptical of any genuine improvement.

A continued role for Nazarbayev in the government will likely overshadow any transition of power. As it stands, Nazarbayev still wields significant power domestically and serves as the lifetime chairman of the country’s Security Council.  How the next President manages the expectation for a genuine transition while continuing Nazarbayev’s legacy will determine the future of central Asia’s most powerful economy.

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