Election officials in Kazakhstan say preliminary results of yesterday's nationwide polls show the long-ruling president confirming his incumbency with 97.7% of the vote. A crushing victory for 74-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev was widely expected from the moment Sunday's snap elections were announced. Nazarbayev faced only two nominal rivals, and state media have for years nurtured an increasingly extravagant cult of personality devoted to him. Authorities in the oil-rich Central Asian nation, which is facing a slowdown in economic growth amid falling oil prices and recession in neighboring Russia, say they hope the election will serve as a confirmation of legitimacy in uncertain times.
The Central Election Commission says turnout was a record 95%. The high turnout came despite what international observers described as a "hardly visible" campaign. Voter turnout is typically high in authoritarian states in Central Asia—the result of habit carried over from Soviet times and massive marshaling exercises by state officials. Nazarbayev's victory over his two rivals, a trade union official and a Communist politician who ran on a platform that included supporting Nazarbayev, was seen as all but a formality. Nazarbayev hails the scale of the turnout. "Without such mass public confidence, it would be difficult to work on completing the difficult tasks at hand," he says. "The record turnout showed the unity of the people of Kazakhstan and their desire to live in a stable state." (Read more Kazakhstan stories.)