Kazakhstan elections puzzle the world

China's President Xi Jinping (R) speaks with Kazakhstan's Former President Nursultan Nazarbayev before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 28 April 2019. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

New candidates have emerged for the 9 June presidential elections in Kazakhstan, which take place after the first president of the country, Nursultan Nazarbayev, surprisingly resigned on 19 March. But many observers believe the long-serving leader is still calling the shots.

Kazakhstan’s ruling Nur Otan party unanimously nominated last Tuesday (23 April) Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as its candidate for the 9 June presidential election. Nazabayev was in attendance.

Kazakhstan’s transition takes place according to Nazarbayev's plan

Kazakhstan’s ruling Nur Otan party unanimously nominated on Tuesday (23 April) Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as its candidate for the 9 June presidential election. The first President of the country Nursultan Nazarbayev said he had planned this move for years.

For many, the election appeared a one-horse race. However, several other candidates were nominated.

The opposition Ak Zhol party nominated a woman, Daniya Yespayeva, as its candidate for the presidential election. Ak Zhol is a liberal party with seven seats in the 107-seat parliament (Nur Otan has 84).

Other candidates are Jambyl Akhmetbekov from the opposition Communist party (seven seats), Toleutai Rakhimbekov from the Auyl party, Amirzhan Kossanov from the Ult tagdyry Republican Public Association, Sadybek Tugel, a sports federation chief, Amandeldy Taspikhov, a trade unions activist, and Talgat Yegaliev, from the Union of Builders of Kazakhstan.

Tokayev is still perceived as riding high to be the winner, but apparently Nazarbayev, who is the architect of its own succession, would like to encourage a likeness of democratic competition.

At the last elections, Nazarbayev won 97.7% of the vote, and one thing is for certain: Tokayev will not have a result that high. There were three other candidates in 2015, including the current Communist contender. Each one got slightly more than 1%.

According to Reuters, Nazarbayev remains very much in command, as he still retains several key posts, including leader of the Nur Otan party.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, both on visits, met with Nazarbayev and Tokayev separately this week, just before Nazarbayev set off for China to attend a Belt and Road conference alongside Central Asian presidents, while Tokayev stayed home.

The difficulty, according to the agency, is to explain to citizens, and also to foreign partners, what the chain of command is and how exactly they are splitting the workload.

“There have been no signs of discord, but some businessmen are already concerned about potential conflicts of priorities”, Reuters added.

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