Kazakh leader set to coast to election victory

Kazakhstan`s president is so certain of victory in Sunday`s snap election that he hasn`t bothered hitting the campaign trail.

Almaty (Kazakhstan): Kazakhstan`s president
is so certain of victory in Sunday`s snap election that he
hasn`t bothered hitting the campaign trail and only published
his manifesto days before the vote.

Nursultan Nazarbayev`s closest adviser predicts,
probably accurately, that he will garner some 90 per cent of
the ballots in a presidential election that few expected or
even wanted.

Nazarbayev`s term was to have ended in 2012, but he
called the early election in January after a proposed
referendum on canceling the next two elections was ruled

He said he made the call to ensure that the country`s
people retained their trust in democracy, but critics
speculated he was trying to head off any popular uprising like
those that were beginning to sweep the Middle East and North

Kazakhstan is under Nazarbayev`s firm control. His Nur
Otan party holds every seat in the lower house of parliament
and lawmakers last year named him "leader of the nation" a
title that gives him the right to approve important national
and foreign policies after he retires and grants him lifetime
immunity from prosecution for acts committed during his rule.

Such authoritarian trappings aside, Nazarbayev is held
in high esteem by much of the electorate, credited by many
with steering the country away from its uncertain beginnings
in the collapse of the Soviet Union to become Central Asia`s
most vibrant economy.

"Part of his appeal to voters is that he has exciting
plans for the next 10 years of Kazakhstan`s development,"
including diversifying the economy away from dependence on
natural resources and aiming for 30 per cent economic growth
over a decade, presidential adviser Yermukhamet Yertysbayev
wrote in a recent article.

But with groups such as Freedom House labeling
Kazakhstan as "Not Free," many feel this promise of affluence
has come at a high price.

Government opponents have criticized Sunday`s election
as unfair. International observers already have hinted they
are unhappy with the election`s lack of transparency and the
lackluster spirit of competition displayed among the

"The presidential contest unfolds between the
incumbent president and three other candidates, who, by their
own admission, want the incumbent to win," the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe`s election monitoring
arm said this week in a pre-election report.