Sat, 30 May 2020

Kazakhstan's ruling Nur Otan party has nominated interim President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev for the presidency.

The announcement was made at a party congress on April 23 where it had been expected to nominate its candidate for a snap presidential election in less than two months.

'I propose for consideration Tokayev's candidacy,' said Nursultan Nazarbayev, who chairs the Nur Otan party despite retiring from the presidency in March.

'I ask everyone to support his candidacy,' he added.

The party had said in a statement on its website that a special congress would choose the candidate after the agenda for the meeting of the highest governing body of the party was approved on April 22 by its Political Council.

Ex-President Nursultan Nazarbaev resigned last month after nearly 30 years leading the Central Asian state but remains the leader of Nur Otan.

On April 9, interim President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev announced a snap presidential election for June 9. The vote appears aimed at shortening the political transition period and decreasing the chances of instability following the abrupt resignation of Nazarbaev.

The abrupt announcement of a vote has also left potential opponents of a ruling-party candidate with little time to mount a campaign, reducing their chances in a country where the opposition has been marginalized and politics is still dominated by Nazarbaev, whose favorite -- whether anointed as such publicly or not -- will be virtually certain to win the presidency.

'The chairman of the party, Nursultan Nazarbaev, instructed us to mobilize resources and take an active part in the upcoming election campaign. The party is ready to nominate its candidate for the presidential election, and their name will be announced tomorrow [April 23] by the chairman of the party at the congress, Nur Otan said in its April 22 statement.

Kazakhstan has seen unusually persistent protests recently in which demonstrators in several cities have accused the government of ignoring the needs and demands of ordinary people.

The protests were spurred in part by anger and grief over the deaths of five children from a single family in a house fire in Astana, the capital, on February 4.

The predawn fire destroyed a small family home in Astana while both parents were away working overnight shifts, killing five girls aged 3 months to 13 years.

Toqaev, who is also a member of Nur Otan, became interim president on March 20, a day after Nazarbaev announced his resignation.

Opponents, critics, and rights groups say Nazarbaev, an authoritarian leader who has tolerated little dissent, prolonged his power in the energy-rich country of 18.7 million by manipulating the democratic process.

The 78-year-old is chairman for life of Kazakhstan's Security Council and has been granted the title of 'elbasy,' or leader of the nation, which gives him and his family lifelong immunity from any civic or criminal prosecution.

Nazarbaev's eldest daughter, Darigha Nazarbaeva, succeeded Toqaev as speaker of the parliament's upper chamber, the Senate, after he took over the presidential duties on March 20.

Before Toqaev's nomination, she had also been seen as a potential presidential candidate.

With reporting by Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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