Europe's main election monitoring group has criticized Kazakhstan's weekend election, saying that "reforms necessary for holding genuine democratic elections have yet to materialize."
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement that the process "revealed similar shortcomings as those noted in previous elections" in the country.
Provisional results show that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev won another five-year term after receiving almost all of the votes in a largely uncompetitive poll.
The Central Election Commission said today that provisional figures show the 70-year-old Nazarbaev taking 95.5 percent of the votes in the April 3 election.
Daan Everts, head of the OSCE election observation mission, said the election "could and should have been better."Turnout Sky-High
Kazakhstan's electoral commission said voter turnout in the election was nearly 90 percent.
Three other candidates were on the ballot. But all had publicly backed Nazarbaev's continued rule, and their participation was seen as mainly symbolic.
Nazarbaev, who has argued that economic strength must come to ensure stability ahead of democratic reform, touted the election as a sign of national unity behind his plans.
"Today's vote of our citizens will determine our unity and our aspiration to implement everything that I have mapped out in my state-of-the-nation address," Nazarbaev said after voting. "We have turned to the industrial and innovative program. We have turned to social modernization. All of this is designed to work for the benefit of the common person."
Political opponents had complained that the announcement of the vote, just two months before it was held, was insufficient.
Many of them had urged a boycott, calling the vote a sham that was certain to result in another term for Nazarbaev, who has already ruled Kazakhstan for more than 20 years.
Election commission members in Almaty on election day.
Kazakhstan has never held an election that has been evaluated as free or fair by international monitors.
This latest election, held two years earlier than originally planned, was called after a proposed referendum to extend Nazarbaev's term to 2020 was rejected by Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council.
There were reports of threats of expulsion against students who failed to vote, incentives like small household appliances for young voters, and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service said some voters received a coupon after they cast their ballot and were told they must show the coupon to their employers to prove they had participated.
An RFE/RL correspondent also witnessed "carousel voting," in which people are transported to multiple polling stations to cast votes.with additional agency reports