NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – The energy-rich Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan on 9 June held its first-ever presidential election without the participation of long-time President Nursultan Nazarbayev which saw current President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev from the ruling Nur Otan party win 70.13%, according to an exit poll released shortly after midnight on 10 June.

Runner-up Amirzhan Kosanov from the Fate of the Nation movement placed second with 15.39% of the vote, according to the same exit poll, which confirmed most outside observers’ earlier predictions.

According to the exit poll, Ak Zhol Democratic Party candidate Denya Yespayeva, who is the first woman in Kazakhstan’s history to run for president, received 5.32%; Zhambyl Akhmetbekov from the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan won 3.86%; Amangeldy Taspikhov, a representative from the Federation of Trade Unions took home 1.41%; Auyl party representative Toleutai Rakhimbekov captured 3.3% of the vote; and Sadybek Tugel from the public association Eagles of the Great Steppe 0.86%.

The election on 9 June was called after Kazakhstan’s first President Nazarbayev stepped down in March.

According to the directors of three election centres visited by New Europe, the vote was carried out without any major incidents and in a constructive atmosphere.

At a secondary school in a village some 17 kilometres from the newly-renamed capital, Nur-Sultan, which was once the site of the infamous Soviet-era women’s Gulag ALZHIR, 780 people of the 2,906 registered had already voted by just after midday. The numbers were somewhat low, according to the polling station’s chairwoman, Kaligash Bekimova, who added that many more were expected to cast their vote later in the afternoon once a boxing match in New York between Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin and Canada’s Steve Rolls had concluded.

At school N°10 in Nur-Sultan, polling station director, Marziya Tashenova, noted that by 5:30 pm, 2,678 people, or about 50% of those registered, had already voted.

At Polling Station 179, located in one of Nur-Sultan’s older schools, the polling station’s director, Ceyran Gaisina, noted that by 5:55 pm, around 2,000 people had voted from the registered 3,000 in the voting district. Gaisina noted that most people came at 7:00 am when the polls opened, but the turnout at the polling station was higher than in years past and that “people kept coming” throughout the day.

Elections

Meanwhile, according to reports, police detained more than 500 peaceful demonstrators after “unsanctioned rallies” in the former capital and largest city Almaty, as well as in Nur-Sultan.

Throughout the day, Tokayev called for the police to show restraint and vowed to forge a dialogue between both those who support the government and those in opposition.