Polling stations have now closed in Kazakhstan’s presidential election, a ballot in which long-standing Nursultan Nazerbayev is likely to be reconfirmed for another term. He has been in office in the oil-rich state since 1989, a hold on power that critics say has been with an iron fist.
The leading opposition candidate made accusations of vote rigging even before the ballot stations opened, and complained of harassment during the campaign. Nazerbayev’s opponents claim Washington and others will turn a blind eye to any irregularities in the poll because they are eager to maintain good relations with a vital oil-producing country.
The president has dismissed criticism that the minority elite benefit from the country’s oil wealth, while others are left in poverty. Nazerbayev says he is keen to pursue democracy, but it has to suit his people’s needs and way of life. And while international observers say the country is yet to hold an election that is free and fair, people who vote for him say at least he has maintained stability and peace over the past 16 years.