Astana: President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Friday was sworn in for a third decade of his strongman rule, vowing to implement reform in the face of Western criticism of Kazakhstan's democratic standards.
Nazarbayev won over 95 percent in Sunday's polls but his crushing victory was marred by complaints from international observers that the elections fell well short of being free and fair.
The President took his oath in the Kazakh language, vowing to loyally serve his people, and the central election commission then handed him the certificates of office.
"Today is a special day for me. The Kazakhs have made their historic choice and voted for me and I express my thanks," Nazarbayev said at the ceremony in the new capital Astana, whose building he personally masterminded.
In a nod towards criticism that his rule has provided stability but little semblance of democracy, Nazarbayev promised to increase the powers of parliament and government.
"We will continue our work for the further democratisation of society," he said in his address.
"We must find an optimal solution to widen the powers of the parliament, the responsibilities of the government and to perfect the electoral system."
He said that the world "does not stand in one place" and Kazakhstan needed to modernise and pursue a policy of innovation.
Nazarbayev, 70, came to power while Kazakhstan was still a Soviet republic and was elected President after it won independence. Along with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, he is the longest serving leader in the former USSR.
This will be his fourth term in office, although his first term was considerably lengthened by a referendum. Kazakhstan has yet to hold elections deemed to be fully free and fair by international observers.
Nazarbayev's advisors have predicted that he will stand again for another five year term as President in the next elections in 2016 so long as his health allows.
However his grip on power has left an uncertainty over the identity of a successor that has concerned investors although some analysts believe power will be less concentrated after his eventual departure.
First Published: Friday, April 08, 2011, 15:59