Kazakhstan strongman confirms candidacy for snap presidential poll

Strongman Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev on Wednesday confirmed his candidacy for snap April 26 presidential elections that he is expected to win by a landslide.

Astana: Strongman Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev on Wednesday confirmed his candidacy for snap April 26 presidential elections that he is expected to win by a landslide.

Nazarbayev, who has ruled energy-rich Kazakhstan since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, accepted the nomination from his ruling party and pledged to tackle economic difficulties sparked by the financial slump in neighbouring Russia and fall in oil prices. 

"On the basis of our successes we should move forwards. For this reason I speak before you and will agree to put forward my candidacy with one aim -- to offer you new challenges," he told delegates.

Nazarbayev, 74, faces no meaningful competition, and many of the 15 candidates that have so far registered with the country`s Central Election Commission to face him will struggle to collect the signatures of one percent of the total electorate -- a requirement to contest the ballot.

Registration for candidates will finish March 25.

Kazkhstan`s energy-dependent economy has been buffeted by the shockwaves from the Ukraine crisis and the slump in the price of oil. 

Hours before announcing his candidacy, Nazarbayev asked wealthy Kazakhs to transfer their foreign-held savings back to Kazakhstan and reiterated a request for Kazakh consumers to buy local produce.

The weakening of the Russian ruble, which lost half its value against the dollar in 2014 had led to "serious competition" for local producers, he said. 

While warning of future "difficulties" Nazarbayev ruled out a repeat of last year`s shock 19 percent devaluation of the Central Asian country`s national currency the tenge in a speech to the government last month. 

Kazakhstan has been forced to restructure its state budget for the next two years to account for the steep fall in prices for crude oil, the country`s main export, in the second half of 2014.