ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan's Nationwide Social Democratic Party (ZhSDP), the only registered party in the country that positions itself as opposition to the government, has decided to boycott an early presidential election scheduled for June 9.
The decision was made at a party congress in Almaty on April 26 to protest what party members say is the participation of "puppet" candidates proposed by pro-government parties to help secure an election victory for Kazakhstan's interim President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev from 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.
Kazakhstan's ruling Nur Otan party nominated Toqaev as its candidate for the presidency on April 23.
Five other parties known to be loyal to Nur Otan nominated relatively unknown political figures the same day.
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 announced on April 9 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, including the ZhSDP, say the snap election is aimed at shortening the political transition and decreasing 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 snap 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.