MOSCOW (AP) — The new president of Kazakhstan promised during his inauguration Wednesday to continue the course set by his predecessor, who led the Central Asian country since it gained independence in 1991.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev took the oath of office three days after an election that took place among protests and hundreds of arrests. He received about 70 percent of the vote.
Tokayev was speaker of the upper house of Kazakhstan's parliament before he became acting president, following the surprise resignation in March of longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
"It has to be recognized that, in these elections, citizens voted for the continuation of the course of the Elbasy," said Tokayev, referring to the title accorded Nazarbayev that means "leader of the nation."
Retaining the title and his role as head of the national security council, Nazarbayev will remain a powerful figure in Kazakhstan.
The transition comes amid rising dissent in Kazakhstan. More than 500 people were arrested in Election Day protests. Opponents alleged the vote was staged to make way for Tokayev as Nazarbayev's hand-picked successor.
Protests have continued in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and in Almaty, Kazakhstan's principal city. Police detained 35 people Wednesday in Almaty as they gathered with plans to hold protests, the Interfax news agency reported.