Dozens detained in Kazakhstan at rally urging vote boycott

May 1, 2019 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) — Impromptu rallies erupted in Kazakhstan on Wednesday urging voters to boycott the presidential election. Police rushed to detain several dozen people.

The rare public discontent in the sprawling Central Asian nation reflects residents’ wariness about a presidential succession orchestrated by the country’s first and only president.

Russian news agencies reported that some protesters in the rare opposition rallies gathered in a central park in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital of Almaty while others marched downtown in the capital of Nur-Sultan. They called for a boycott of June 9 presidential vote, chanting “We have a choice!” and “For fair elections!”

Live footage broadcast by Radio Free Europe showed riot police snatch several dozen protesters from the crowd in Nur-Sultan and shove them into police vans.

Kazakhstan’s long-time leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 78, abruptly resigned in March, a move seen as an orchestrated handover of power to his hand-picked successor. The ruling party last week nominated a Nazarbayev ally, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, to run for president in the early election.

The protesters on Wednesday were also rallying against the recent decision to rename the capital of Astana to Nur-Sultan to honor the outgoing president.