NUR-SULTAN -- Eight nominees, including interim President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, who is expected to win, have submitted applications to run for president of Kazakhstan in the June snap election, the Central Election Commission said on April 29.
A ninth presidential hopeful, nominated by the Central Asian nation's Union of Constructors, Talghat Erghaliev, withdrew his candidacy on April 29. The deadline for applications ended on April 28.
Nominated by the ruling Nur Otan party, Toqaev is not expected to be challenged seriously as other candidates are either relatively unknown political figures nominated by pro-government parties and groups, or do not have enough time to campaign for the early poll.
The only registered party in the country that positions itself as opposition to the government, the Nationwide Social Democratic Party (ZhSDP) announced its decision to boycott the election, on April 26.
The decision was made at a party congress to protest what party members say is the participation of "puppet" candidates proposed by pro-government parties to help secure an election victory for Toqaev of the ruling Nur Otan party.
A ZhSDP statement declares that fielding a candidate in the election would damage the party's reputation because it could be seen as a political group that is controlled or being used by the government.
Toqaev, a former diplomat who had been the speaker of Kazakhstan's Senate, became interim president on March 20 -- one day after the country's long-time leader Nursultan Nazarbaev announced his resignation from the presidency.
Toqaev on April 9 announced that a snap presidential election would be held on June 9 -- moving forward the date of the next scheduled presidential election by nearly one year.
Critics say the snap election is aimed at shortening the political transition and decrease the chances of instability following the resignation of Nazarbaev, who had ruled Kazakhstan in an autocratic manner since 1989 when it was still a republic of the former Soviet Union.
The announcement of the election just two months before the actual vote has given Toqaev's potential opponents little time to mount a campaign, greatly reducing their chances of becoming known by voters in a country where the political opposition has been marginalized and politics is still dominated by Nazarbaev.
The registration of the candidates is scheduled to continue through May 11.