The people of Kazakhstan vote on Sunday in a general election in which no-one is expecting anything other than a landslide for President Nazarbayev’s ruling party.
The longstanding leader has consistently put economic growth before democratic reform, and previous elections have been criticised by international observers.
For the first time, the second-placed party will be automatically guaranteed seats in parliament. But commentators see little likelihood of a shift in the balance of power.
“Frankly speaking, you don’t need to be Nostradamus to make predictions. (The ruling party) Nur Otan will get a majority. And out of the seven political parties contesting the election only one is formally opposition. The rest, no matter how they position themselves, are still pro-presidential parties,” said political analyst Dosym Satpayev.
In power since Soviet times, Nazarbayev remains popular among many who trust him to keep regional conflicts at bay.
He has used the country’s vast natural resources pragmatically and his authoritarian regime has been largely spared of western criticism.
One outbreak of dissent was recently crushed. A protest by sacked oil workers led to clashes with police during which 17 people were reportedly killed.
The president responded by replacing younger officials with trusted hardliners.