Incumbent Tokayev wins snap elections in Kazakhstan to become the country’s second president

Incumbent Tokayev wins snap elections in Kazakhstan to become the country’s second president
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev won the country's presidential election last week – the first in the modern history of the oil-rich Central Asian country, in which the country’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev was not participating as a candidate.

The EU is Kazakhstan`s first trade partner representing over one third of its external trade. The European Union is also the largest foreign investor in Kazakhstan, representing over 50% of Foreign Direct Investment in the country.

Election officials in Kazakhstan announced last Monday that Mr. Tokayev, 66, had taken 70.76 percent of the vote. The candidate with the next highest vote share, opposition rival Amirzhan Kossanov, won around 16.2%.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had taken the reins as acting president a day after the resignation of Nazarbayev in March. Despite the Kazakh Constitution stating that a person succeeding a resigning president has full presidential authority until the end of his predecessor’s term, Tokayev announced that the country would hold snap presidential elections on June 9.

“We need to clear up any ambiguity, in order to ensure public and political accord, confidently move ahead and settle the issues related to our socio-economic development. This can only be done through the direct expression of the will of the people through an election,” said Tokayev in his April address.

Following the elections, President of the European Council Donald Tusk congratulated the new President.

"I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the European Union's commitment to strengthened relations with Kazakhstan," Tusk wrote in his letter.

“Kazakhstan is an important partner for the EU; the EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement anchors our substantial cooperation, which we look forward to deepening further," he furthermore emphasized.

A prosperous and oil-rich country in the region, and part of the former Soviet union, Kazakhstan stands at a crossroads between China and Russia. A smooth transition in power was encouraged by neighboring countries, as well as by foreign companies invested in the country.

The Central Election Commission stated that turnout was 77.4 percent of the near 12 million registered voters. On Sunday evening, after the results of a nation-wide exit poll was announced, other candidates admitted defeat.

In his speech, upon learning the preliminary results, opposition rival Amirzhan Kossanov congratulated Tokayev on his victory. He noted that if he had been nominated by the united opposition of the entire Kazakhstan or a big political party with considerable experience, he would have won more votes.

He also emphasised that people will play a key role in the transition of power in Kazakhstan. “I believe that people will have their say in the formation of Kazakhstan's future model,” he said.

The election had a record number of candidates running. In addition to Tokayev, six people also ran for the office, including a first-ever female candidate, who currently serves as a Member of Parliament.

Tokayev, who has studied at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, announced that he will continue previous President Nazarbayev’s multi-vector policy of maintaining a foreign policy which attempts to balance the influences of European Union, China, Russia, Turkey and the United States. That approach has been successful in helping Kazakhstan attract foreign investment and open up markets for its oil and metals exports.

In his victory speech, Tokayev thanked his supporters for trusting him and stated that he is “glad that the election campaign was civilized and calm” and that “this was a competition between election programs.”

“The elections proves that the level of political culture in Kazakhstan has seriously grown up. We have a lot to do,” Tokayev added in his speech just after exit poll results were announced.

“The situation in the country has changed, as well as the situation in the whole world. We have become the subject-matter of influence by international turbulent processes. As part of the world community, Kazakhstan is affected by everything that happens outside its borders. We must unite to work for the future of Kazakhstan,” he also emphasised.

The election was observed by more than 1,000 international observers, including 350 from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. It was also covered by 350 foreign journalists from 40 countries.

Overall, the event is reported to have gone smoothly without any serious issues. Around 500 people were detained across the country for their participation in a non-sanctioned protest but in general the situation in the country remained calm.

The Brussels Times

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