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Kazakhstan to vote after clashes

12 january 2012, 19:30
Voting. Photo by Yaroslav Radlovskiy©
Voting. Photo by Yaroslav Radlovskiy©
Kazakhstan on Sunday votes in parliamentary polls touted by the authorities as a chance to freshen up politics but shadowed by an outbreak of unrest in the west of the country less than a month ago, AFP reports.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev called the elections several months ahead of the scheduled date to introduce new figures into parliament, whose seats are currently all occupied by loyalists of the ruling Nur Otan party.

A colourful array of candidates are heading the Nur Otan party list, ranging from the president's eldest daughter Dariga to the cyclist Alexander Vinokurov, arguably the most famous sportsman in the country.

Nazarbayev has expressed hope that the elections will give the energy-rich nation of over 16 million a more modern looking parliament after previous sessions provided little more than sycophantic endorsements for his policies.

"Amid the current instability and turbulence in the world we need to preserve unity and elections will help this," said Nazarbayev who has ruled Kazakhstan since even before the fall of the Soviet Union.

"Elections should consolidate society," he said.

It is certain that Nur Otan (Light of the Fatherland) will face some opposition in the new parliament as under a new rule the party that comes second will obtain seats even if it wins less than the seven-percent threshold.

"It is going to be announced to the entire world that parliament has become more democratic," said Dosym Satpayev, director of the Almaty-based Risk Assessment Group.

"The president needs to show that Kazakhstan is making serious steps in its political system."

According to the head of the Institute for Social-Political Research, Aigul Sadvakasova, Nur Otan should win over 80 percent of the vote -- only just off the 88 percent it received in the last polls in 2007.

Its nearest challenger on around seven percent should be the Ak Zhol (Bright Path) party which garners its support mainly from businesspeople and the middle class.

The All-National Social Democratic Party (OSDP) brings together representatives of the more critical opposition but it is held back by a lack of unity between its main representatives.

After the clashes in Zhanaozen on December 16 the state of emergency was introduced in the town. The country's Constitutional Council initially ordered that voting could not take place in Zhanaozen due to the state of emergency but the decision was rapidly overturned following intervention from Nazarbayev.

Meanwhile the central election commission said Bolat Abilov, one of the leaders of the OSDP, had been disqualified from taking part in the election for allegedly failing to disclose his income.

Voters will choose 98 deputies in the 107-seat Mazhilis, with the other nine MPs representing Kazakhstan's various ethnic groups chosen by its assembly of the peoples.

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