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Hundreds Arrested in Kazakhstan Election Protests

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Kazakh police detain a demonstrator during an anti-government protest during the presidential elections in Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan, June 9, 2019.
Kazakh police detain a demonstrator during an anti-government protest during the presidential elections in Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan, June 9, 2019.

Police in Kazakhstan have arrested about 500 protesters marching against Sunday's early presidential election that they call illegal.

Some protesters chanted "shame, shame, shame" as they were hauled away, urging police to ignore orders to arrest them and "come to the side of the people."

One government report said three officers were hurt.

Exit polls in Kazakhstan show outgoing President Nursultan Nazarbayev's hand-picked successor and interim president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, winning at least 70% of the vote, defeating six other government-approved candidates. Voter turnout was 77%.

Opposition supporters called for a boycott, saying Sunday's election would be neither free nor fair. They call it an illegal and orchestrated transfer of power from one authoritarian leader to another.

Tokayev promised the election would be "open and transparent."

"Our people are concerned about many social and economic issues," he told reporters after casting his ballot. "This is why elections are a good opportunity to decide who is going to lead the country, what our country will be like in the future.

He said he would continue the same policies as Nazarbaev if elected as president.

Nazarbayev stunned Kazakhstan in March when he unexpectedly announced his resignation as president. He has governed Kazakhstan since it was part of the Soviet Union and though its independence in 1991. He is the only ruler many Kazakhs have known.

Although Kazakhstan has thrived economically because of huge oil and gas deposits, the country has a poor human rights record under Nazarbayev, with free speech suppressed and nearly all independent media outlets shut down.

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