AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- Residents of a rundown town on the frigid central Kazakh steppe say they may not vote in next month's presidential election unless the government solves urgent home-heating problems or relocates them to other regions.
Dozens of Aqtau residents demonstrated last week, demanding the local government build a central heating station and repair the roofs of their apartment buildings.
If that does not happen, they said they will be too busy dealing with the problems of their daily lives to vote in the April 26 election.
The vote is all but certain to hand long-ruling President Nursultan Nazarbaev a new term, but the problems faced by Aqtau residents undermine his portrayal of Kazakhstan as a thriving nation.
Dozens of five-story apartment blocks have been abandoned in the town of 8,600, and many use improvised stoves to heat their apartments.
Winter temperatures drop as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius in the region, the site of some of the toughest prison camps in the Soviet gulag.
Aqtau's mayor, Aidos Ordabaev, told RFE/RL that residents exaggerated their problems.
He also said he would like to build a central heating plant but the town lacked the money.