Ruling party seals expected victory in Kazakhstan vote

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev casting his vote at a polling station in Astana, Kazakhstan, on March 20, 2016.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev casting his vote at a polling station in Astana, Kazakhstan, on March 20, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN(AFP) - Energy-rich Kazakhstan's ruling party has secured a landslide win in parliamentary polls that never threatened to trouble autocrat President Nursultan Nazarbayev's long reign, official results confirmed Monday (March 21).

According to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party won 82 per cent of votes in Sunday's election and will share parliament with the pro-government People's Communist Party and Ak Zhol, who each secured just over 7 per cent of the vote.

The vote - which saw little real opposition to Nazarbayev - came as the ex-Soviet country sees its once-booming economy slump on the back of falling oil prices and an economic crisis in northern neighbour Russia, but the strongman's grip on power appears as firm as ever.

Celebrating the victory with supporters on Monday, Nazarbayev - who during the poll warned outsiders "not to rush" Kazakhstan towards democracy - said he was in a "joyful state" following the announcement of the results.

"Our party has won. The 77 per cent turnout is a record and 82 per cent of votes received for Nur Otan - a record!" he said.

"We demonstrated to the whole world open, direct voting on a competitive basis in the presence of thousands of international observers and journalists." A mission headed by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is expected to deliver its verdict on the vote at 0830 GMT.

The international security body has never in the endorsed a poll held in Kazakhstan as free and fair.

Nazarbayev - who maintained close ties with former master Moscow - has ruled Kazakhstan virtually unopposed since before its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the 75-year-old was elected to a new five-year term last year with 98 per cent of the vote.

Sunday's early polls came after Nazarbayev brought forward the presidential vote ahead of schedule, with analysts saying he was keen to get elections over with in case the economic situation worsened.

Three other parties competing on Sunday failed to clear the seven per cent threshold to enter the parliament, including the only party claiming to represent the opposition.

Nazarbayev has not confirmed his intention to stand again when his term ends in 2020 and observers are eyeballing government appointments for any indications they might give of a potential heir emerging.