Veteran Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev (pictured) is likely to have been re-elected with a record 94% of the vote, according to an exit poll released early Monday. Elections in Kazakhstan have never been deemed fair by international monitors.
REUTERS - Veteran Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev is likely to have won Sunday's early presidential election with 94.82 percent of the vote, an exit poll released early on Monday showed.
The poll was conducted by Kazakhstan's Association of Sociologists and Politologists (ASiP) in the Central Asian nation's 14 regions and two main cities -- Astana and Almaty -- and covered 1.2 percent of voters who had cast their ballots.
By winning the election, Nazarbayev will secure another five years in charge of his oil-producing Central Asian state of 16.4 million people, where the echo of popular revolutions in the Arab world is almost inaudible.
First official results are expected later on Monday. In the previous polls in 2005, Nazarbayev won 91.2 percent of the vote.
Nazarbayev, 70, has made stability his main motto in the predominantly Muslim nation, where he has overseen market reforms and more than $120 billion in foreign investment during two decades in power.
But he is challenged by critics at home and rapped by the West for his authoritarian methods. Kazakhstan has never held an election judged free or fair by international monitors.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), chaired last year by Kazakhstan, has stationed more than 300 observers across the country. Its election monitoring arm will deliver its findings later on Monday.
Official turnout was 89.9 percent in Sunday's election, which Nazarbayev called almost two years before his term had been due to end after rejecting a proposal for a referendum to extend his reign unchallenged until 2020.
The opposition, which was left no with time to mobilise its forces, had denounced the early election as a farce.
Living standards in Kazakhstan are higher than elsewhere in Central Asia, a volatile region bordering Afghanistan unsettled by poverty, ethnic tensions, radical Islam and the drug trade.
"I congratulate the nation with a victory of common sense," ASiP head Bakhytzhamal Bekturganova said after announcing results of the exit poll. "This is the Kazakhstanis' unquestionable contribution to the internal political stability and economic progress of Kazakhstan."
Nazarbayev's landslide re-election, however, will do nothing to answer the question cited by many investors as the biggest political risk in Kazakhstan: who will eventually succeed him?
The president, who has built warm ties with giant neighbours Russia and China, has said he will rule for as long as his health and his people will allow. Some analysts say he could use his next five years in office to groom a pliant successor.
Date created : 2011-04-03