Kazakhstan goes to polls in parliamentary vote
20 March 2016, Nirapad News: Citizens of energy-rich Kazakhstan went to the polls Sunday, in an early parliamentary election expected to provide a commanding majority for ageing autocrat President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s ruling Nur Otan party.
Close to 10 million people are eligible to vote in the ballot, held early amid economic gloom in the Central Asian state and featuring six parties mostly supportive of the country’s Russia-aligned leader.
Nazarbayev, 75, has ruled Kazakhstan virtually unopposed since before independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 — and has not designated a successor.
Over 9,800 polling stations in the vast landlocked republic had opened by 0200 GMT, with voting across the country expected to conclude by 1500 GMT.
Analysts say the parties competing in the vote lack coherent ideologies or manifestos, and exist to provide democratic window dressing in the authoritarian state rocked by low oil prices.
“These are zombie parties,” Dosym Satpayev, Director of the Risk Assessment Group based in the country’s largest city Almaty told AFP.
“They take up space and make announcements, but principally do not have any particular sort of platform.”
Nazarbayev was re-elected with nearly 98 percent of the vote in a snap presidential election last year.
In addition to Nur Otan, two other parties from the outgoing pro-government legislature are competing — the Communist People’s Party and Ak Zhol (Bright Path).
Of the three remaining parties both Auyl (Village), which focuses on agrarian issues, and pro-green Birlik are loyal to Nazarbayev. The Nationwide Social Democratic Party (NSDP) claims the mantle of the opposition.
Standing in line to vote in the capital Astana, Maral Akimbaeva, 27, a worker for a state company, said she would “probably” vote for Nur Otan.
“If I am honest I don’t see any difference between the parties. They all say the same thing,” she told AFP.
Bolat Karabayev, a private entrepreneur, said he would not be voting.
“I am disappointed by these parliamentarians. I don’t think they can solve our problems. Policy is made by the president’s office at any rate,” he told AFP.
Exit polls are expected to show projected results shortly after midnight Astana time (1800 GMT).
Kazakh electoral law determines at least two parties must take their places in the 107-member legislature, even if one of them does not surpass the seven percent vote threshold.