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Longtime Kazakh ruler backs loyalist for presidential vote

media Tokayev became interim president in March POOL/AFP/File

Kazakhstan's founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev on Tuesday proposed loyalist interim successor Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as the ruling party's candidate for a snap presidential vote.

"I propose for consideration Tokayev's candidacy," said Nazarbayev, who chairs the Nur Otan party.

"I ask everyone to support his candidacy".

Tokayev became interim president in March following 78-year-old Nazarbayev's shock resignation after three decades in the role.

After Nazarbayev spoke at the extraordinary party conference, other speakers took to the stage to praise Tokayev.

If Nur Otan supports his candidacy, Tokayev will almost certainly win the June 9 election in the country of 18 million people.

Kazakhstan has no history of competitive votes and Nazarbayev secured nearly 98 percent of the ballots at elections in 2015.

"I am sure he will be a worthy leader," Nazarbayev said of the 65-year-old career diplomat, after praising the economic successes of his own rule.

"I am proud that the honour befell me to create an independent Kazakhstan," Nazarbayev said.

"We have a vision for the development of the country 10 years ahead... People need stability and confidence in tomorrow. I will continue to work in the interests of the people of Kazakhstan."

Tokayev has said that Nazarbayev will retain a deciding role in domestic and foreign policy.

In addition to his role as head of the ruling party, Nazarbayev is the country's "Leader of the Nation", or "Elbasy" in Kazakh, and the lifelong chair of the powerful security council.

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