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  Nursultan Nazarbayev is set to be elected once again

Nursultan Nazarbayev is set to be elected once again

Published : Mar 21, 2016, 6:28 am IST
Updated : Mar 21, 2016, 6:28 am IST

Citizens of energy-rich Kazakhstan voted Sunday in a parliamentary election expected to provide a commanding majority for ageing autocrat President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s ruling party.

Nursultan Nazarbayev
 Nursultan Nazarbayev

Citizens of energy-rich Kazakhstan voted Sunday in a parliamentary election expected to provide a commanding majority for ageing autocrat President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s ruling party.

The early vote comes as the ex-Soviet country has seen its once-booming economy slump on the back of falling oil prices and an economic crisis in northern neighbour Russia, but Mr Nazarbayev’s grip on power appears as firm as ever. The 75-year-old strongman — who has ruled Kazakhstan virtually unopposed since before its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 — was elected to a new five-year term last year with 98 per cent of the vote.

After casting his vote in the capital Astana on Sunday morning, Mr Nazarbayev — who has maintained close ties with ex-Soviet master Russia — called on other countries “not to rush” Kazakhstan on its journey toward democracy.

“This is Asia,” he said. “We have different relationships — family relationships, a different religion and different opportunities between people.”

The country’s Central Election Committee (CEC) said that more than 75 per cent of nearly 10 million voters had cast their votes in a ballot featuring six parties mostly supportive of Mr Nazarbayev.

Standing in line to vote in Astana, Maral Akimbaeva, a 27-year-old worker for a state company, said she would “probably” vote for ruling party Nur Otan.

“If I am honest I don’t see any difference between the parties. They all say the same thing,” she told AFP.

Analysts say the parties competing in the vote lack coherent ideologies or manifestos, and exist to provide democratic window-dressing in the authoritarian republic.

Location: Kazakstan, Astana