NUR-SULTAN/ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN - Kazakh police rounded up about 150 people on Wednesday as protests continued against President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev despite his call for dialogue after a disputed election.
Hundreds-strong demonstrations, otherwise rare in the tightly controlled oil-exporting country, have repeatedly broken out since the election last Sunday in which career diplomat Tokayev won 71 percent of the vote and secured a five-year term.
Police made most of the detentions as people approached a cordoned-off square, in the center of Almaty, the Central Asian nation's biggest city, where activists planned to rally on the day of Tokayev's swearing-in, according to a Reuters witness.
A handful who managed to get into the square were also quickly led away after shouting "Kazakhstan forward!" and insulting security officers. Car drivers expressed solidarity by slowing down and honking their horns. Many offices, shops and restaurants closed early.
Critics called the weekend vote rigged as 66-year-old Tokayev, nominated for the post by his veteran predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, faced little meaningful competition and the integrity of ballot counting was questioned.
Nazarbayev, 78, who resigned in March after running the former Soviet republic of 18 million for almost three decades, retains sweeping powers as Yelbasy, or national leader, and critics accuse him of installing a puppet.
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