ASTANA: Kazakhstan on Sunday voted in snap parliamentary polls that saw new faces on the ballot, but opposition parties still barred one year after deadly protests shook the Central Asian country.
The huge, oil-rich nation is wedged between its former Soviet master Russia and China, which is gaining status in Central Asia as an economic powerhouse.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced the early vote as part of a “modernisation” drive introduced months after protests against fuel prices erupted in January last year. They were brutally crushed and 238 people died, according to the official toll.
Tokayev, a former diplomat, was hand-picked in 2019 by his predecessor and mentor Nursultan Nazarbayev to take the helm after a nearly three-decade rule. But Tokayev purged vestiges of that era after the demonstrations.
Both Tokayev and Nazarbayev were seen casting their vote on Sunday morning.
Polling stations in the ex-Soviet country, which expected some 12 million voters to cast their ballot, had closed with preliminary results expected at 1800 GMT.
“As independent candidates are admitted, I think the electoral system is changing for the better,” nurse Irina Reshetnik, 58, said at a polling station in the capital Astana.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2023