Asia

Kazakhstan election condemned by international observers

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Media captionFootage from the city of Almaty shows protesters being led away by police

Kazakhstan's presidential election was tarnished by violations of basic freedoms, international observers said.

Widespread irregularities and arrest of peaceful protesters showed scant respect for democratic standards, said the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Sunday's election was called after long-time leader Nursultan Nazarbayev stepped down in March.

His hand-picked successor Kassym-Jomart Tokayev easily won the poll.

Mr Tokayev took nearly 71% of the vote in Sunday's election, leaving far behind his six rivals, Kazakhstan's electoral commission said.

What did the OSCE say?

In its preliminary report on Monday, the OSCE said: the election "was tarnished by clear violations of fundamental freedoms as well as pressure on critical voices".

"Significant irregularities were observed on election day, including cases of ballot box stuffing, and a disregard of counting procedures meant that an honest count could not be guaranteed.

"There were widespread detentions of peaceful protesters on election day in major cities," the statement said.

The OSCE had more than 300 observers to monitor the poll across the vast country.

What did the new president say?

Mr Tokayev described the election as "a competition".

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Image caption Kassym-Jomart Tokayev polled nearly 71%, Kazakhstan's electoral commission said

"This shows that our level of political culture has seriously increased," the newly-elected president was quoted as saying by Kazakhstan's state media.

But he added that "there is much work ahead".

What about the arrests?

Large-scale demonstrations - the biggest the country has seen in years - were held on the voting day in the capital Nur-Sultan and the country's largest city Almaty.

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Image caption Protesters were seen being dragged into buses by riot police in Nur-Sultan

About 500 protesters were arrested by police, local officials said. A BBC correspondent in Nur-Sultan saw people being dragged onto buses by riot police.

Mr Tokayev on Sunday urged police to exercise restraint. He told the BBC his government would be tolerant towards those with different views.

Why are there protests?

Mukhtar Ablyazov, leader of banned opposition group the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, said the election was a sham with a predetermined outcome and urged his supporters to take to the streets in protest.

In a video posted to social media, he said "thousands of protesters" had gathered in Almaty's Astana Square. Demonstrators chanted "boycott" and "police with the people" before their protests were broken up by authorities.

Kazakhstan's interior ministry described the protesters as "radical elements seeking to destabilise society".

What is the background?

In March, Mr Nazarbayev, the only man to lead the country since it emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, shocked the country by announcing his resignation.

Nevertheless, Mr Nazarbayev is expected to retain much of his influence as head of the governing party.

Mr Tokayev's first decision as interim president was to rename the capital Astana as Nur-Sultan in homage to Mr Nazarbayev.

That decision, which went ahead without public consultation, fuelled disillusionment with Kazakhstan's government.

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