Voters headed to polling stations in large numbers Sunday in the oil-rich Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan in elections that look to have slightly broadened democratic representation in parliament’s rubber-stamp lower house. The high turnout, which reached 75 percent, is perhaps more an outcome of habit than hope, however, since the legislature will likely only undergo cosmetic changes.
An exit poll by Kazakh think tank Institute of Democracy published late Sunday showed three parties possibly entering parliament. According to data compiled from a survey of around 50,000 voters across the whole country, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party easily pushed aside its competition with 81 percent of the vote.
All the seats up for grabs in the 2007 election in the former Soviet nation’s parliament were won by Nur Otan. A 2009 election law ensured at least two parties would enter the 107-member chamber, by automatically granting seats to the party with the second-highest number of votes even if it did not receive the 7 percent share that is the threshold for proportional allotment of seats.
Nine deputies will be nominated Monday by a presidential advisory body that represents the country’s many ethnic communities.
Opposition parties that were most likely to pose a robust challenge to Nur Otan have been either disqualified from competing or rendered largely powerless.
Institute of Democracy said its survey showed the pro-business Ak Zhol party, which avoids confrontation with the government, and the People’s Communist Party of Kazakhstan claiming 7.3 percent. Two other exit polls pointed to a similar outcome.