Kazakhstan leader `ready to rule` ahead of poll

Kazakh President is expected to bring home another impressive haul of votes.

Updated: Apr 01, 2011, 12:33 PM IST

Astana: Kazakhstan on Friday entered the last day of campaigning with officials brushing aside the revolutions sweeping other Muslim nations and promising another decade in power for the veteran President.

Streets peppered with "We are voting for the leader" posters leave little doubt that President Nursultan Nazarbayev -- officially dubbed "leader of the nation" (Elbasy in Kazakh) -- will bring home another impressive haul of votes.

Nazarbayev`s victory is so assured in Sunday`s ballot that the government is already releasing his post-election travel plans while aides speak of a 90-plus percent mandate befitting the country`s first and only President.

"He is not hiding his grand political ambitions for the coming decade," Nazarbayev`s top political advisor Yermukhamet Yertysbayev told Khadar state television on Thursday evening.

Yertysbayev has previously said that the "leader" label warranted Nazarbayev more votes than the 91 percent he picked up in the last elections in 2005 and compared the president -- in power since 1989 -- to boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

"Look at Ali," the aide said. "He reigned for 15 years but still took every fight seriously."

The energy-rich nation prides itself for being an island of Central Asian stability that saw seven percent growth last year on the back of business-friendly tax policies that make Western investors feel at home.

"Some people say that Kazakhstan is the calmest and most stable place on Earth. And this is not an exaggeration," Yertysbayev said with pride. "This really is the case."

But some analysts said the fact that Nazarbayev has never been elected in a poll deemed fair by observers leaves Western businessmen guessing about how deeply his liberal take on economics runs within the state.

That question is particularly pointed because the 70-year-old leader has failed to suggest a successor amid signs of an inner-circle struggle about what to do next.

State television reporters with greater access to Nazarbayev said in private that some aides were pushing the President to stay in power as long as physically possible while others were quietly promoting their own favourites.

But these figures are almost complete unknowns to both the local public and Western states and businesses.

Powerful Nazarbayev opponents with deep pockets meanwhile have mostly fled the state and a new law requiring a 15-year residency period for candidates rules them out of the succession picture.

The ruling party is also slowly acquiring some new blood: it is expected to soon see a new Senate speaker -- the second in the line of command -- and a new deputy head of the ruling Nur Otan party.

Yertysbayev said in one recent interview that elections would be followed by appointment changes that will see the rise "of the golden youth who received elite educations in the West".

Bureau Report