Kazakhstan's interim leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the hand-picked successor of long-term former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, wins over 70 percent of the votes in the presidential election, according to an exit poll.
Kazakhstan on Sunday elected interim leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the hand-picked successor of long-term former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, with around 70 percent of the vote, exit polls showed.
The government-approved "Public Opinion" pollster gave Tokayev 70.13 percent while his closest rival, opposition candidate Amirzhan Kosanov received 15.39 percent.
Nazarbayev, who had run the oil-rich former Soviet republic for almost three decades before stepping down in March, and retains sweeping powers, chose the 66-year-old diplomat as his successor, making the outcome of the vote all but certain.
But on the day of the vote, Kazakhstan police detained hundreds of opposition protesters, AFP reporters said.
In the biggest protests for three years in the Central Asian country, AFP correspondents in the main cities Nur-Sultan and Almaty saw police detain hundreds and bundle them into police vans.
The ruling Nur Otan party that nominated Tokayev is still chaired by Nazarbayev, who spent almost three decades as Kazakhstan's head of state.
Nazarbayev has also received the honorary title of "Leader of the Nation," or Elbasy in Kazakh, and is the lifelong chief of the powerful security council.
But when he signed off from his presidential role with a surprise speech on national television in March, he gave a ringing endorsement to Tokayev, who as Senate speaker automatically became the interim leader.
"Tokayev is precisely the person we can trust to manage Kazakhstan.
He is an honest, responsible and dependable person," Nazarbayev said.
Tokayev, a long-time diplomat was born in 1953 to a family of Soviet intelligentsia in Kazakhstan. He graduated from the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 1975.
He then began a career as a diplomat that would see him become a force in Kazakhstan's independence-era foreign ministry. He served as foreign minister twice and was appointed prime minister from 1999 to 2002.
But his role as speaker of the senate was more indicative of Nazarbayev's personal trust in him.
Tokayev filled the position twice, from 2007 to 2011, and from 2013 until his swearing-in as interim leader in March.
Had Nazarbayev been unable to fulfil his presidential duties at any point during these two periods, Tokayev stood next in line for office under the constitution.
We spoke to Luca Anceschi, senior lecturer in Central Asian Studies at Glasgow University, about Sunday's vote.
Chinese speaker, top UN role
A fluent speaker of English and Chinese as well as Russian and Kazakh, Tokayev is perfectly positioned to balance the interests of the country's two giant geopolitical neighbours, while keeping the West engaged.
He also served as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva between 2011 and 2013, becoming the first Kazakh to hold such high office in an international organisation.
He has nevertheless remained a low-key figure for much of his career and has been at pains to portray himself as modern and communicative in recent weeks, making his debut on Instagram and admitting to issuing presidential orders via WhatsApp.
Tokayev's mild-mannered demeanour has led some to criticise him as lacking charisma.
Nazarbayev's foreign-based political nemesis Mukhtar Ablyazov once memorably likened him to furniture that "emits a squeak when it is moved around".
Ablyazov, a fugitive banker committed to the overthrow of the Nazarbayev regime, has insisted Tokayev is a mere placeholder who will make way for Nazarbayev's daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva, 56, when the time is right.
Nazarbayeva has taken over the Senate speaker role Tokayev vacated for the presidency.
Tokayev, however, may know more about Nazarbayev's plans for Kazakhstan's future than anybody else bar the man himself.
In June last year, he predicted Nazarbayev would not seek another term in an interview with the BBC that alerted observers to the imminent succession move.
"Speaking frankly, I don't think that President Nazarbayev will go to the 2020 election," Tokayev said at the time.
He turned out to be right, and is now running for president himself.