Exit Polls: Kazakh President's Party Won 82 Percent
March 20, 2016
by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service
Exit polls from Kazakhstan's parliamentary elections suggest President Nursultan Nazarbaev's ruling party has won 82 percent of the vote.
The Central Election Commission announced that voter turnout on March 20 was at least 77 percent.
None of the elections held in Kazakhstan since its independence from the Soviet Union in December 1991 have ever been deemed free or fair by Western countries or international observers.
Previous concerns have included reports of ballot tampering, multiple voting, harassment of opposition candidates, and press censorship.
RFE/RL reporters on March 20 observed ballot-box stuffing and voting on behalf of family members in several regions throughout the country.
Nazarbaev's Nur Otan party faced no real competition for places in the 107-seat Mazhilis, the lower house of parliament.
In addition to Nur Otan, exit polls suggested two other parties allied with Nazarbaev each received just over 7 percent of the vote -- the minimum required to win party seats through proportional representation.
They were the pro-government Communist People's Party and Ak Zhol.
Of the three remaining parties, the agrarian party Auyl and environmentalists in Birlik are loyal to Nazarbaev.
The Nationwide Social Democratic Party was positioned as the opposition.
Attention is focused on the president's daughter Darigha Nazarbaeva, who is deputy prime minister and also on the Nur Otan party list as a candidate.
If she leaves the government, she could become the speaker of the lower house, which would solidify her position as a potential presidential successor to her 75-year-old father.
Nazarbaev has ruled Kazakhstan virtually unopposed since before its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. He has maintained close ties with the Kremlin since then.
Nazarbaev was elected in 2015 to a new five-year term as president after official results showed him taking 98 percent of the vote.
On March 20, after casting his ballot in the capital, Astana, Nazarbaev called on other countries "not to rush" Kazakhstan on the path toward democracy.
He told reporters at the polling station in Astana that Kazakhstan "is Asia," and that it had "different relationships -- family relationships, a different religion and different opportunities between people."
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and TASS
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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