NUR-SULTAN -- The hand-picked successor of Kazakhstan's longtime ruler won a sweeping victory in a presidential election on Sunday (June 9).
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev took 70.8% of the vote, well ahead of his closest rival, opposition candidate Amirzhan Kosanov, who garnered 16.2%, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said.
Tokayev had received the blessing of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the Central Asian nation for three decades before his shock resignation in March.
Tokayev's opponents were quick to congratulate him on victory, including Kosanov.
"This political transition will take place with the participation of the people," Kosanov said.
"People are ready for an equal dialogue with authorities," he said in an interview shown on state television.
Third place was claimed by Daniya Yespayeva, the first woman candidate in a Kazakh presidential election, who scored 5.2% of the ballot according to the CEC.
Security concerns for Tokayev will include relations with Russia, its former colonial power, and de-radicalisation of extremist citizens who joined "Islamic State" (IS) and who have returned to Kazakhstan.
Sunday also saw hundreds of arrests after the biggest protests in Kazakhstan in at least three years, as demonstrators urged a boycott of the election.
The Interior Ministry said about 500 people were arrested on Sunday, with Deputy Minister Marat Kozhayev blaming "radical elements" for holding "unsanctioned" rallies.
Scores more were arrested on Monday (June 10), AFP reported.
Tokayev insisted the election had been "a competition" despite claims it was fixed.
"This shows that our level of political culture has seriously increased. There is much work ahead," he said in comments broadcast Monday on state television.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said there were "widespread voting irregularities".
Kazakh authorities said they would investigate all allegations of vote violations.