Kazakhstan’s new president called for dialogue with protesters after police arrested hundreds of people demonstrating against his election and opposition groups called for rallies to continue.
Former Senate leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dominated the presidential ballot, taking 71 percent of the vote to cement a transfer
of power by Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had ruled the country since before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Tokayev, Nazarbayev’s handpicked replacement, said he would form a “national council of public trust” to address protesters’ concerns.
Some opposition leaders have denounced the election, which also drew criticism from international observers for violating fundamental freedoms that included ballot-box stuffing and a disregard of counting procedures.
“Our people are very worried about developing a dialogue between authorities and society,” Tokayev, 66, said during his inauguration in Nur-Sultan “Such dialogue must be built on recognition of opinions and pluralism.”
Police detained about 700 protesters in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry.
Protests were dispersed by police, while authorities have blocked messaging apps and social networks, according to the Vlast news website.
The government has blamed the demonstrations on fugitive Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, who urged people to take to the streets again on Wednesday, according to his YouTube channel. Another protest movement also called for the election results to be overturned.
Nazarbayev, who parliament has declared leader-for-life, retains key powers as head of the national security council.
He also leads the ruling Nur Otan party, which has an overwhelming majority in parliament.