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Kazakhstan's Tokayev gets veteran leader's backing for presidency

Kazakhstan's Tokayev gets veteran leader's backing for presidency
Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev shakes hands with former President Nursultan Nazarbayev at a congress of the Nur Otan ruling party in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov   -   Copyright  MUKHTAR KHOLDORBEKOV(Reuters)
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NUR-SULTAN (Reuters) – Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Tuesday secured veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev’s backing to run in a June 9 snap presidential election, virtually guaranteeing Tokayev’s victory.

The move eliminates much of the uncertainty about Kazakhstan’s political transition plans that bothered foreign investors who have pumped tens of billions of dollars into its energy and mining industries.

Nazarbayev, who leads the oil-rich Central Asian nation’s biggest political party, Nur Otan, asked party members at a pre-election congress on Tuesday to officially nominate Tokayev, a 65-year-old former diplomat.

“Having known him for many years, I consider him the worthiest candidate in the country for this position today,” Nazarbayev said before the party voted unanimously in favour of his proposal.

Tokayev, previously speaker of the Senate, assumed the presidency last month in line with the constitution when Nazarbayev resigned after running the former Soviet republic of 18 million for almost three decades.

Tokayev, a graduate of an elite Soviet diplomatic school, then quickly called an early election to finalise what observers regard as an orchestrated transfer of power in a highly centralised political system.

Nazarbayev, 78, retains sweeping authority as head of Kazakhstan’s security council and Nur Otan leader.

His eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, has replaced Tokayev as Senate speaker, putting her in position to assume the presidency in the event of his resignation or death.

Several other candidates are likely to run in the June 9 elections representing token opposition parties most which never criticise Nazarbayev and his policies.

Western observers such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have never recognised Kazakh elections – routinely won by Nazarbayev with over 90 percent of the vote – as free and fair.

(Reporting by Tamara VaalWriting by Olzhas AuyezovEditing by Darren Schuettler and Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)

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