Kazakhs set to elect new leader Sunday


NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakhs are set to go to the polls Sunday (June 9) to elect their first new leader in 30 years.

Career diplomat and interim President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 66, is running for the country's ruling party with enthusiastic backing from ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down from the presidency in March.

That announcement shocked Kazakhs who had lived under his rule since Soviet times, but he is still expected to call the shots in Kazakhstan.

Tokayev's six rivals, including one low-key opposition figure, are little known in the country.

Tokayev, in contrast, has received endorsements from pop stars and film actors and appears to have the weight of the state machine behind him.

Security concerns for Kazakhstan's next leader 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.

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