Police in Kazakhstan clamped down on unauthorized protests, detaining about 500 people as the country went to the polls on Sunday.
“There were attempts to organize illegal demonstrations and disturb the peace in the cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan,” a senior Interior Ministry official said in comments carried by state news agency Kazinform. Three police officers were reportedly injured.
Protesters called for boycotting the presidential election, which they believe serves to keep long-reigning Nursultan Nazarbayev in power from behind the scenes.
The country’s interim president, 66-year-old Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, is expected to win over his six little-known rivals on Sunday.
Strongman Nazarbayev backed oil-rich Tokayev as his sucessor while
announcing his own departure in March. But the 78-year-old Nazarbayev, who holds the official title of Yelbasy, or national leader, and continues to run the ruling Nur Otan party, remains the power behind the throne.
After voting early on Sunday morning, former prime minister and foreign minister Tokayev told reporters, in English, that Nazarbayev “was still in power in the capacity of chairman of the security council … and other capacities.”
Among the candidates standing against Tolayev is Dania Yespayeva, Kazakhstan’s first female presidential candidate.
Activists have risked imprisonment protesting the poll in a country where…