NUR-SULTAN, May 6 — A prominent opposition politician and journalist on Monday won his bid to challenge a trusted ally of strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan’s presidential polls next month.
The central election commission of the ex-Soviet Central Asian country said it had registered Amirzhan Kosanov, 54, who was nominated by the Ult Tagdyry (Conscience of the Nation) movement as a candidate for the June 9 election.
In March, Nazarbayev, 78, shocked the country by calling time on his presidency, but he is still seen as calling the shots in the oil-rich nation of 18 million people.
He has endorsed the candidacy of loyalist former senate speaker and diplomat Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 65, who is currently interim leader.
Tokayev called a snap presidential vote in April and is standing with the backing of the ruling Nur Otan party, which is still led by Nazarbayev.
Kazakhstan’s move to allow a long-standing opposition politician’s candidacy could be aimed at defusing attempts by Nazarbayev’s most outspoken adversary, fugitive banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, to rally protesters against the vote, observers said.
Police last week arrested dozens of protesters calling for a boycott of the vote and Ablyazov has called for fresh protests this week.
Ablyazov and his banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) movement have demanded a boycott of the vote and oppose all candidates, including Kosanov.
Ablyazov, a former banker and energy minister, lives in France.
Kazakhstan has sentenced him in absentia to life in jail on charges that he dismisses as trumped-up and links to his political opposition.
Kazakhstan, an ally of Russia and China, has never held an election judged free or fair by Western election monitors.
Nazarbayev triumphed in the 2015 election with nearly 98 per cent of the vote. — AFP