The rapid and non-transparent transition of power from the ailing long-term Kazakhstan president (former local CPSU leader), Nursultan Nazarbaev, to his appointee Kassym-Jomart Tokayev left the people of Kazakhstan with elections without any real choice. The opposition is not allowed, and the example of Mukhtar Ablyazov is a vivid example of those who were lucky enough to at least flee the Kazakh reality.

Police in Kazakhstan’s biggest city were put on high alert overnight as protests against what many see as a rigged presidential election continued, resulting in hundreds of people being detained, police sources said yesterday. Most of the detained were activists of the European-based opposition leader Mukhtar Ablyazov.

The vote in which Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, an ally of powerful ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev, was confirmed as president, has prompted a series of public protests which are otherwise rare in the tightly controlled oil-rich nation.

The rallies were relatively small with only hundreds of participants, but they have become the biggest display of public discontent since 2016 when protests forced the authorities to shelve planned land reform and prompted several ministers to resign.

The Interior Ministry said on Tuesday police detained about 200 people on Monday in addition to 500 held a day earlier over protests which are illegal in the former Soviet republic unless explicitly allowed by the government.

Heavy police presence was visible on the streets of Almaty yesterday, with several National Guard personnel carrier trucks parked near the focal spot of the previous two days of rallies.

Authorities have blamed the protests on Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK), a movement led by fugitive former banker and minister Mukhtar Ablyazov who lives in France and routinely attacks Nazarbayev on social media, often prompting the Kazakh government to block access to Facebook and Instagram.

But the latest rally on Monday night appeared to have little to do with DVK-promoted protests and was triggered instead by the detention earlier that day of Rinat Zaitov, a poet and musician who blasted the election as rigged and said he would start a political movement of his own.

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