Kazakhs vote for a new president today (June 9)

  • World
  • Sunday, 09 Jun 2019

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan: At a glance, it's hard for casual onlookers to tell that there is an election going on here.

The political heat seems to be missing under the cloudy skies with the temperature at a pleasant 16°C.

But for those involved directly or indirectly in polling day on Sunday (June 9) to pick a new president for Kazakhstan, it has been a brisk affair.

"Things have been going very well here. I am happy for the people of Kazakhstan," said Valeriu-Andrei Steriu, an MP from Romania who is here as an international observer.

Seven contenders are in the race to be Kazakhstan's president, the second person to hold the post in this former Soviet republic which gained its independence in 1991.

The post is largely expected to go to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a 66-year-old career diplomat who has the blessings of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Nazarbayev, who stepped down in March, looms large in the life of Kazakhs, having been their president for close to 30 years.

As pointed out by political scientist Talgat Kaliev, the generation born after Nazarbayev could not imagine life without him.

"He built Astana from nothing," said a young civil servant proudly. She was referring to the capital city, renamed Nur-Sultan after Nazarbayev's resignation.

Nazarbayev remains the head of the Nur Otan party, besides being known as "Leader of the Nation".

Undoubtedly, he remains influential. He was mobbed by cameramen when he turned up at a polling station to cast his ballot Sunday morning.

Polling will close tonight at 8pm (10pm Malaysian time).

The new president will be inaugurated on June 12.

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