Kazakh 'election' to yield yet another landslide for dictator

 

Moscow

The result of yesterday's election in Kazakhstan was such a foregone conclusion that even one of the opposition candidates said he had voted for the incumbent. Official results today are expected to show a landslide majority for Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has run the country since the break-up of the Soviet Union and is accused by critics of being a dictator with a poor human rights record.

Mr Nazarbayev, 70, has high approval ratings in the steppe nation of about 16 million people, but he tolerates little dissent. Opposition politicians and journalists complain of harassment and sometimes violence used by authorities to keep them quiet.

Mr Nazarbayev also faces allegations of corruption, as members of his family have become some of the richest people in the country. No elections held in Kazakhstan have ever been judged free and fair by international monitors, but global business has been keen to court the country owing to its vast reserves of oil and gas.

In the last election, in 2005, Mr Nazarbayev won more than 90 per cent of the vote. A similar result is expected this time, with no candidates offering a real alternative platform. One of the president's three nominal challengers, the environmentalist Mels Yeleusizov, told journalists he himself had voted for Mr Nazarbayev. "He is the winner. It was kind of a sports event," he said after casting his ballot in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty. "He has won, and I shake his hand."

The constitution was changed in 2007 to allow Mr Nazarbayev to stand as many times as he likes for the job. He has also been made "Leader of the Nation", a title that means he will be able to veto legislation even when he retires. Analysts say that yesterday's election, called two years early, was meant to buy Mr Nazarbayev more time to groom a successor.

During his time in power, no other politician has built up a political profile, and there are fears in Mr Nazarbayev's circle that if he becomes ill, there could be a messy fight for power.

Mr Nazarbayev is often described by Western observers as "the best of a bad bunch" among the leaders of Central Asia, as he has at least presided over a period of economic growth for his country.

The situation in neighbouring Uzbekistan is much worse, with widespread poverty and few economic opportunities. Authorities loyal to President Islam Karimov, who, like Mr Nazarbayev, has been in power since the collapse of the Soviet Union, stand accused of torturing dissidents on a regular basis.

Nevertheless, only tiny Kyrgyzstan has experienced political upheaval in recent years, and analysts say it is unlikely that a wave of Middle East-inspired political protests will sweep the region, citing apathy and fear.

"Together we will vote for stability in our society, for friendship in our polyethnic nation, for our future and for the future of our children," Mr Nazarbayev said yesterday in Astana, the country's surreal new capital city, built largely from scratch during his reign.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...