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Day of silence begins in Kazakhstan ahead of presidential election

66-year-old Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, nominated by the ruling Nur Otan party, is seen as a frontrunner in the upcoming polls
Campaign posters promoting Kazakh presidential candidates Mikhail Yegikov/TASS
Campaign posters promoting Kazakh presidential candidates
© Mikhail Yegikov/TASS

NUR-SULTAN, June 8. /TASS/. A ban on election campaigning came into force in Kazakhstan on Saturday ahead of the snap presidential election to take place on Sunday.

For the first time ever in Kazakhstan’s modern history, longtime ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev who steered the country for slightly less than 30 years, will not run for presidency. Nazarbayev, who turns 79 this year, stepped down on March 19. However, his successor 66-year-old Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (nominated by the ruling Nur Otan party), whose campaign slogan is "Continuity. Justice. Progress" is widely seen as the most likely winner. According to the majority of experts, he is likely to gather 50% plus one vote and claim the victory already in the first round.

On April 9, Tokayev appointed early presidential elections on June 9. Candidates were nominated from April 9 through April 28, with the registration period being over on May 11. Now, the campaign period ended at midnight on Friday.

Despite the ban on campaigning, candidates’ posters will not be removed from public places, because the law does not openly state they must be taken away. Polling stations - 9,970 in the country and 65 abroad, including five in Russia - are the only place where they are directly prohibited.

Nine candidates initially filed documents for registration, but one of them, Talgat Yergaliyev (Union of Builders of Kazakhstan association of legal entities), withdrew his candidacy, while another - Jumatai Aliyev (Khalyk Demografiyasy public association) - failed the test for the knowledge of the country’s official Kazakh language.

The remaining candidates are Tokayev, member of the lower parliament house Jambyl Akhmetbekov, aged 58 (nominated by the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan); member of the lower parliament house Daniya Yespayeva, aged 58 (nominated by the Ak Zhol party); journalist Amirjan Kosanov, aged 54 (Ult Tagdyry National Patriotic Movement Association), board chairman of the National Agrarian Research and Educational Center Toleutai Rakhimbekov, aged 54 (representing the Auyl People’s Democtratic Patriotic Party), trade union leader Amangeldy Taspikhov, aged 59 (Federation of Kazakh Trade Unions) and writer Sadybek Tugel (Uly Dala Kyrandary Republican Movement).

The electoral process will be monitored by a record number of local and foreign observers - 1,013 people representing nine international organizations and 41 countries.

Observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in their interim report published two weeks before the election that the campaign "has been low-key."

"Thus far, the ODIHR EOM observed that the campaign has been low-key and largely limited to posters and billboards of some of the candidates. On some of the posters Mr. Tokayev features together with Mr. Nazarbayev, emphasizing continuity of social, economic, foreign policies. Most candidates that the ODIHR EOM met with have not highlighted core political messages, apart from general statements about the need of reform. While Mr. Tokayev stated that he is not going to actively campaign, limiting himself to participation in a few rallies, he is actively touring the country, formally, in his capacity as the president," the report says.

An interim report by the observer mission from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) five days before the election, says that the campaign has been carried out "largely within the legal framework, in a civilized and reasonable manner."

According to CIS observers, the country’s Central Election Commission (CIS) has been "efficiently using media to ensure the openness and transparency of the electoral process, provide information coverage of all stages of electoral preparations, the candidates’ actions and the work of electoral commissions."

"National and regional TV and radio broadcasters inform the public about the campaign, its stages and procedures, clarify electoral legislation, transmit news reports related to the upcoming election, air calls to voters to fulfill their civic duty," the report says.