President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is widely expected to win Sunday’s election over five little-known candidates.

Polls are closed in Kazakhstan, where incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is widely expected to win an easy victory in a snap election.

The Sunday election comes after bloody unrest this year shook the country and Tokayev took steps to suppress the influence of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Five candidates were on the ballot against Tokayev, but with a short campaign period starting in late October, they had little chance of facing significant challenges. Opinion polls have predicted that none of the other five candidates would score in the double digits.

Tokayev, apparently confident of having a strong advantage, stayed away from a nationally televised election debate.

The former diplomat, who came to power in 2019 as Nazarbayev’s hand-picked successor when the country’s only ruler since the Soviet era stepped down, broke up with his ex-patron after a January uprising that Tokayev called an attempted coup.

Another electoral victory — a foregone conclusion against the five little-known candidates — will give Tokayev, 69, the kind of overwhelming personal mandate that Nazarbayev routinely acquired as he built a personality cult for five consecutive terms.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (right), seen here with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has taken steps to distance Kazakhstan from longtime ally and dominant regional power Russia [Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters]

Tokayev said on Sunday he would continue to “reset” the political system by calling early parliamentary elections next year. Tokayev left the ruling Amanat party this year and oversaw reforms that made it easier to create new political parties.

The National Election Commission said that by the end of the day (14:00 GMT), about 69 percent of voters had voted. Data from several exit polls will be released after midnight (18:00 GMT) and preliminary results of the vote are expected on Monday.

The election to a seven-year term comes after Tokayev took steps to distance Kazakhstan from longtime ally and dominant regional power Russia. Tokayev enlisted Russian help to quell the unrest, but has since avoided giving public support to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Russia is Kazakhstan’s largest trading partner, and Russia’s slip into recession has hurt Kazakhstan’s economic growth, while the strength of the ruble, boosted by capital controls, has driven inflation in Kazakhstan to its highest level in 14 years.

Police arrested several dozen people who protested small-scale against the vote in Almaty, according to opposition groups and local media. Police said some were quickly released, while others were charged with misdemeanor.

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