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Kazakh Activists March In Astana Against Election

Participants march in snowy Astana today to protest the upcoming presidential election.
Participants march in snowy Astana today to protest the upcoming presidential election.
ASTANA -- Dozens of civil rights and opposition activists from across Kazakhstan marched in Astana today to protest the upcoming early presidential election, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The rally is the latest in a series of protests against the April 3 election that is all but certain to return incumbent Nursultan Nazarbaev to power.

Opposition parties and movements have been calling on voters to boycott the poll, calling it "a tool to illegally prolong Nazarbaev's term in office again" and complaining that they had no time to launch a proper campaign.

The protesters today demanded to meet Nazarbaev in order to hand over a petition urging him to call off the election.

They gathered first near Bayterek Tower in central Astana before marching towards the president's residence led by opposition leader Zhasaral Quanyshalin.

Dozens of police blocked their way to the presidential residence. When the protesters started chanting "Nazarbaev, Come Out!” police gave them a verbal warning, but allowed Quanyshalin and four other activists to approach.

They later told journalists that their petition was accepted in the presidential chancellery.

The petition was initiated by the "Let Us Defend The Constitution" public committee, the protesters say.

Nazarbaev, 70, who has been running Kazakhstan for more than 20 years, called the snap poll earlier this year almost two years ahead of time.

Three other candidates officially registered by the Central Election Commission are propresidential politicians, considered "pocket candidates" by the opposition.

Read more in Kazakh here