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President declared winner in Kazakhstan

Associated Press / April 4, 2011

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s long-serving president, today was declared the overwhelming winner of elections held over the weekend in a vote that has been tainted by claims of violations.

The turnout of nearly 90 percent in the oil-rich Central Asian nation appeared astonishing given the low-key nature of the campaign, and there were early indications that it had been artificially boosted.

The Central Elections Commission head said incomplete figures showed Nazarbayev claiming 95.5 percent of votes cast. Early voters and 18-year-olds casting their ballot for the first time were rewarded with household goods.

Nazarbayev, 70, has ruled the mainly Muslim country unchallenged since the 1980s, when it was still part of the Soviet Union.

Opposition politicians refused to take part in the election, called for a boycott, and described the vote as a sham. But with 89.9 percent of the 9 million eligible voters casting their ballot, concerns authorities may have had about a weak turnout have been quashed.

Local election-monitoring activists reported numerous violations. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s election monitoring arm has complained about a lack of transparency and competition in the vote.

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