Kazakh police arrested dozens of people Wednesday in a rare public protest against the upcoming election.
Demonstrators marched in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, and in the newly renamed capital of Nur-Sultan.
Officials said 80 people were arrested.
Protesters were marching against what they see as a lack of choice in the June election to replace longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who unexpectedly resigned in March, stunning the nation.
Marchers are calling for an election boycott. They say the ruling party’s nominee, former Senate speaker and Nazarbayev ally Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, will only mean more authoritarian rule.
“We are tired of everything our authorities are doing. They shut our mouths. We have no freedom of speech whatsoever,” one demonstrator said. “We have the feeling that we are living in a slave state, not a free country.”
Nazarbayev has led Kazakhstan since 1984, when it was part of the Soviet Union, and has been the only leader many Kazakhs have known.
The energy-rich Central Asian nation has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment, but human rights activists complain of numerous abuses and say there is little tolerance of dissent.
The parliament voted in March to change the name of the capital from Astana to Nur-Sultan to honor Nazarbayev.