NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declined on Wednesday to attend the only electoral debate broadcast on television ahead of presidential polling that he is favored to win on June 9.
“Tokayev refrains from participating in massive activities, although he commissioned his team to take part in the debates,” the president’s press officer, Berik Kurmangali, told EFE.
The ruling Nur Otan party’s candidate “has limited to the maximum” his presence in electoral events since the beginning of the campaign in order to give the other six candidates more opportunities, according to the president’s office.
“For the president it is important that other candidates have more possibilities to widely spread their positions, he personally guaranteed that the elections will be clean and free,” said presidential adviser Erlan Karin.
Tokayev, who took over the presidency in March following the surprise resignation of longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, was represented in the debate by Maulen Ashinbayev, Nur Otan’s vice president.
Also missing were Daniya Yespayeva, Kazakhstan’s first female presidential candidate, who is currently on the campaign trail. And Toleutai Rakhimbekov, of the Kazakh Social Democratic Party, Auyl.
“Yespayeva cannot participate. Her electoral calendar was confirmed before we knew anything about the debates,” they said.
The other four candidates who ran for presidential elections, including Amirzhan Kosanov, the only opposition politician in the race, showed up at the Jabar television channel.
The debate is divided into three rounds in which the participants present their programs, raise questions and answer the questions of their opponents, and have the opportunity to address the electorate.
Last week, Nazarbayev launched a fierce defense of democracy in the Central Asian country.
“Seven candidates are participating in the elections. That is a signal that political competition exists in our country. Equal conditions for electioneering have been created for all of the candidates,” Nazarbayev said.
He was reacting to criticism from opposition leaders who say Tokayev is assured of winning the election thanks to the backing of the entire machinery of government and the endorsement of Nazarbayev, founder of the Kazakh Republic.
On May 1, dozens of opponents were arrested in the country’s capital, which now bears the name of the former president, Nur-Sultan, during an unauthorized demonstration in which free and fair elections were among their demands.
The Nationwide Social Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, the main opposition party of the country bathed by the Caspian Sea, previously announced that it would not present candidates because it did not want to legitimize a “no alternative” election in which Tokayev’s victory is incontestable.