He has never won an election judged free and fair by international standards. But he remains in control of the ninth-largest country on earth. Nursultan Nazarbayev has taken the oath to begin another term as president of Kazakhstan. It comes after he was returned to power last month – with over 90 per cent of the vote. Delegations from dozens of countries attended the inauguration ceremony.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Viktor Yushchenko were among the guests. There is no sign of a “people’s revolution” in this ex-Soviet state. In power since 1989, Nazarbayev says he believes Kazakhstan is not ready for Western-style democracy. Supporters of the largely popular leader say he has preserved stability in the ethnically-diverse republic. And thanks largely to growing oil production, living standards are above the post-Soviet norm. But his critics say his administration is corrupt, and that he holds too much power. Foreign monitors said last month’s election was flawed due to ballot box stuffing, the intimidation of opposition campaigners and media bias.