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Kazakh President's Party Wins 82 Percent Of Vote In Parliamentary Elections

Kazakhs vote during snap parliamentary elections in the southern village of Toretam on March 20.
Kazakhs vote during snap parliamentary elections in the southern village of Toretam on March 20.

Kazakhstan’s election authorities say President Nursultan Nazarbaev's Nur Otan party has won 82.15 percent of the vote in the March 20 parliamentary elections.

According to preliminary results, two other parties allied with Nazarbaev – the Communist People's Party and Ak Zhol -- passed the 7 percent threshold needed to win seats in the 107-seat Mazhilis, the lower house of parliament.

That means that the legislature will include the same three parties as before.

Two other parties loyal to Nazarbaev -- the agrarian party Auyl (Village) and environmentalists in Birlik (Unity) -- and the opposition Nationwide Social-Democratic Party won less than 7 percent each.

Voter turnout was 77.1 percent.

Nazarbaev, 75, congratulated his party on March 21, saying the people of Kazakhstan had "once again shown confidence in our policy, the programs and platforms declared by Nur Otan."

"This is a great accomplishment of our democracy," he also said.

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.

Attention has been 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."

The latest parliamentary elections were held after the Mazhilis had asked Nazarbaev on January 13 for its early dissolution, explaining the move as a necessity to tackle new challenges caused by the economic crisis faced by Central Asia's largest economy.

The proposal was initiated by a group of lawmakers as Kazakhstan's currency, the tenge, has fallen precipitously in recent months.

Kazakhstan has been struggling with the continued collapse of global oil prices and the impact of Russia's economic crisis.

The Mazhilis's term had been due to end in the fall.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and TASS
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