Ruling party leads Kazakh parliamentary elections, voter surveys show

The ruling Nur Otan party has won a snap parliamentary election in Kazakhstan, according to three exit polls quoted by the Russian state news agency TASS.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party won more than 80 per cent of the vote, according to Tass, reporting from the Kazakh city of Astana.

Beyond Nur Otan only the Ak Schol and the communist People's Party of Afghanistan were expected to have enough votes to gain seats in the Mazhilis, or lower house of parliament. Both parties are allied with the 75-year-old Nazarbayev, who has been at the helm of the country for 25 years.

Official results are expected on Monday.

The electoral commission reported earlier Sunday that turnout reached an all-time high. Preliminary results showed that 77.1 per cent of registered voters cast their ballot.

"That is a record level for the election of parliamentary representatives," Kuandyk Turgankulov, chairman of the electoral commission, told Russian news agency Interfax.

Nazarbayev, who announced the elections in January, is likely to further consolidate power, even as the economy tumbles alongside the price of oil, the country's major export. The elections were originally planned for next year.

The polls were "a milestone in the ... history of Kazakhstan," Nazarbayev said Sunday as he cast his ballot, according to TASS.

"We shall elect the parliament which our country needs," he added. "Great changes are happening in the world, and Kazakhstan should comply with them."

He insisted Sunday that following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan had achieved "colossal success in the economy," TASS reported.

The former Soviet republic in Central Asia is rich in natural resources, but its economy and national currency have borne the burden of plummeting prices for oil.

International observers have never considered an election in Kazakhstan to be free and fair. Previous concerns have included reports of ballot tampering and multiple voting.

Reporters with the US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty observed ballot-box stuffing and voting on behalf of family members in several regions throughout the country, RFE/RL said.

Last update: Mon, 21/03/2016 - 00:11

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