NUR-SULTAN – The Kazakh Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that police arrested 700 people over the previous two days in protests against the presidential election and results, but officials defended the work of officers and once again assured that the demonstrations were instigated from abroad.
Ministry spokeswoman Nurdilda Oraz told EFE that in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, and in Almaty, the Central Asian country’s largest city, 500 people were arrested on Sunday alone.
Election day was marred by arrests, with authorities deploying a large police presence and blocking the Internet.
Images spread around the world and the police reaction was criticized on Monday by Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe international observers as a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of assembly and expression.
On Monday, when it became official that President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had won with almost 71 percent of the vote, protesters returned to the streets and police made a further 200 arrests.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the necessary level of security and public order was guaranteed “to allow citizens to participate freely in the voting process during the presidential elections.”
The ministry reiterated that the protests in Nur-Sultan and Almaty were organized by active supporters of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, an extremist organization banned in the country, “following the instructions of their leaders abroad” to “destabilize the political situation during the elections.”
Fugitive banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, currently living in France, used social media to call for boycotts and instigate protests, especially among young people.
The ministry also said that as a result of “massive propaganda on social networks by Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan activists, they managed to attract a significant number of citizens to these illegal actions, involving them in the commission of crimes and in confrontations with the forces of law and order.”