ASTANA, Kazakhstan—Kazakhstan’s President Kassim Jomart Tokayev has eased a new seven-year term in extraordinary elections where the second-biggest option by voters was to reject all six candidates. It won, the country’s Central Election Commission said on Monday.
Tokayev won more than 81 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election, according to Electoral Commission Chairman Nurlan Abdilov. Five candidates were put to the vote against Tokayev. About 6% of voters chose the “against all” option.
The short election period, which began in late October, left little opportunity for candidates to address important issues.
Tokayev is taking steps to keep Kazakhstan at a distance from its longtime ally and dominant power in the region, Russia, some supporters of Beijing say.
He sharply said the country does not recognize the region of Ukraine that Russia declared sovereign at the beginning of the conflict that began in February. It hosts hundreds of thousands of Russians who fled after being released.
When Tokayev became president in 2019 following the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, he continued the authoritarian course of a man who has led a resource-rich country since gaining independence from the Soviet Union. Nazarbayev continued to wield great influence as chairman of the National Security Council, and the capital was renamed Nur-Sultan in his honor.
Then came a wave of violence in January, when provincial protests, initially sparked by fuel price hikes, engulfed other cities, especially the commercial city of Almaty, as demonstrators chanted “Old people out!” , became overtly political. Reference to Nazarbayev. More than 220 of him, mostly protesters, died as the police cracked down on the riots.
Amidst the violence, Tokayev dismissed Nazarbayev from his Security Council post. He reinstated the capital’s former name, Astana, and the Kazakhstan parliament repealed a law exempting Nazarbayev and his family from prosecution.
One of Nazarbayev’s nephews, Kairat Sativaldi, was sentenced to six years in prison for embezzlement in September. “We have to think the court’s decision was right,” Nazarbayev said after voting on Sunday.
Tokayev then pushed for reforms that included strengthening parliament, reducing presidential powers, and limiting presidential terms to seven years.