Kazakh leader to address nation amid snap election speculation

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will make a televised address to the nation amid speculation that the oil-exporting nation is headed for an early presidential election. (Reuters pic)

ALMATY: Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will make a televised address to the nation on Tuesday, his office said, amid speculation that the oil-exporting nation is headed for an early presidential election.

A snap vote would make Tokayev, a 65-year-old former diplomat, the most likely winner should he choose to run. The incumbent’s ratings are likely to benefit, for example, from public sector pay rises in June and other welfare initiatives.

Tokayev’s office did not disclose the topic of the address set for 1pm, but it will follow the interim president’s meetings with senior officials and political party leaders to discuss the “domestic political agenda”.

Tokayev, previously the speaker of parliament’s upper chamber, assumed the presidency last month after the surprise resignation of veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had run the former Soviet republic for almost three decades.

Lawyers say Kazakh law does not clearly set a date for a regular election in the current circumstances, since Nazarbayev was last re-elected in a snap poll in 2015.

This has prompted public talk about a possible early vote this year, which would eliminate the uncertainty.

Nazarbayev, 78, retains sweeping powers in the country of 18 million as the official “national leader”, chair of its security council and the head of the ruling Nur Otan party. His daughter Dariga has replaced Tokayev as Senate speaker.