Tokayev sworn in as Kazakhstan’s 2nd president

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 12.06.2019 12:53
Updated 12.06.2019 12:55
Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev takes the oath during his inauguration ceremony in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan June 12, 2019. (Reuters Photo)
Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev takes the oath during his inauguration ceremony in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan June 12, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has been sworn in as Kazakhstan's president on Wednesday.

The swearing-in ceremony in the Independence Palace saw participation of high-profile officials from Kazakhstan, including former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, lawmakers and ambassadors in Kazakhstan.

Addressing the participants, Tokayev vowed to serve people "fairly," to abide by the laws and guarantee the rights and freedom of the citizens. He pledged that "different opinions, united nation" would be a slogan of his presidency.

He was shown kissing the state flag in a ceremony broadcast on state television that was watched over by Nazarbayev and marked in ceremonial pomp by the national anthem and artillery salutes.

Tokayev, 66, was elected Kazakhstan's president in an early election on June 9 by receiving 70.96% of the votes. The career diplomat became only the country's second elected president, succeeding 78-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down in March after ruling since Soviet times.

He took the reins as acting president a day after Nazarbayev's resignation and announced the oil-rich Central Asian country would hold early election June 9.

Speaking in both Kazakh and Russian during the ceremony, Tokayev said that the results of Sunday's polls which he won with over 70% of the vote showed that the people had "supported the strategy of Elbasy," which translates from Kazakh as "Leader of the Nation" and refers to Nazarbayev's constitutionally designated status.

Along with his role as "Leader of the Nation," which affords him unique policymaking privileges, he is the lifelong chairman of the country's powerful security council and the leader of the ruling party that nominated Tokayev for the vote.

The interior ministry said that 500 citizens were arrested in protests called by Nazarbayev's foreign-based nemesis Mukhtar Ablyazov on Sunday, and a further 200 on Monday.

Some protesters on Sunday told AFP they did not identify with Ablyazov's banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) movement but would continue to protest against a vote they view as illegitimate.

Hundreds took to the streets on Monday in a protest unrelated to those called by Ablyazov, after a popular Kazakh poet was detained for calling an unsanctioned rally calling for the election results to be canceled.

Rinat Zaitov, who has a strong following on social media, was later released, but scores of protesters continued to roam the streets of the country's largest city Almaty late into the night.

Large police military vehicles later surrounded the protesters as elite police forces made arrests.

Tokayev has pledged to create a "dialogue with society" as president but there are doubts over what he can achieve as a long-serving insider in a regime strongly resistant to political reforms.

On Wednesday he pledged to create a "national council of public trust" to increase public participation in policymaking.

He also pledged to "seriously refresh social policies" in comments that appear designed to head off the protest mood.

Public dissatisfaction with law enforcement has deepened since election day as internet users shared footage of elderly protesters being detained and some citizens unconnected to the protests being manhandled into a police van.

Several journalists, including two AFP correspondents, were also detained on election day as part of a police response that Tokayev has publicly supported.

Dimash Alzhanov, a political scientist and campaigner for police reform who was detained twice before being released on Sunday and Monday, told AFP Wednesday that he doubted Tokayev's pledge to boost civil society and grow public trust.

"(Tokayev) is illegitimate because he was elected with major violations. Before talking about public trust he should institute serious political reforms that show the system's relationship to citizens is changing," Alzhanov told AFP by telephone.

The country's state prosecutor warned Wednesday that protesters would continue to be detained for participating in "illegal" rallies, with further protests expected later in the day.

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