Kazakh ‘leader of nation’ hails landslide poll win

Veteran Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev called on Monday his landslide victory in the Central Asian state’s presidential elections “a sensation” and said it proved the country was united behind him.

Seventy-year-old Nazarbayev was reelected with 95.5 percent of the vote on Sunday. The three other candidates each scored less than 3 percent. One of the losing candidates even said he had voted for the incumbent president, who has ruled the former Soviet republic since the late 1980s.

Other opponents complained of a lack of media freedom in the run-up to the election. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called on Monday the elections “flawed.” A PACE delegation said that while the polls were also not ideal, they reflected the will of the Kazakh people.

“More than 90 percent for a candidate…why, this is a sensation for Western countries,” Nazarbayev said at a Forward With The Leader victory rally in the capital, Astana. At the previous poll in 2005, Nazarbayev took 91.2 percent.

“If polls usually divide a nation into various party blocs, we have united. While the word sees bloodshed and ethnic conflict, we – all the ethnic groups and religions of Kazakhstan – are one,” he told jubilant supporters.

There had been little doubt that Nazarbayev – granted the official title of “leader of the nation” by parliament last year – would win another term of office in this largely oil and gas-rich Muslim republic of just over 16 million people.

“I am confident that the incumbent will win, so I voted for him,” ecologist candidate Mels Eleusizov told reporters in former capital Almaty before the results of Sunday’s polls were announced. He added that his family had also voted for Nazarbayev, but left no one any the wiser why he had run against him.

Under a 2007 constitutional amendment there is no limit to the number of terms Nazarbayev may serve. The former Communist Party chief has said he is ready to lead Kazakhstan as long as his health allows and the people need him. He has frequently also called on Kazakh scientists to develop an elixir of youth.

Nazarbayev’s current term was due to run until 2012, but he called early polls after rejecting a parliamentary-backed proposal to scrap the next two elections.

Turnout at the polls was estimated at around 90 percent.


ASTANA, April 4 (RIA Novosti)

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