Mukhtar Kholdorbekov / Reuters

Kazakhstan's president wins fifth term

Nursultan Nazarbayev won re-election with 97.7 percent of the vote after facing no real challenge from his two rivals

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbavev won a new term with 97.7 percent of the vote, according to election officials.

The Central Elections Commission said Monday that turnout reached a record 95 percent in the oil-rich nation.

Stable in a region that has been troubled by ethnic violence from Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan, Kazakhstan has been criticized by the West and human rights bodies for crackdowns on dissent. No election held here has yet been given a clean bill of health by monitors.

A victory for 74-year-old Nazarbavev was widely expected from the moment the snap elections were announced. Nazarbayev faced only two nominal rivals and state media have for years nurtured an increasingly extravagant cult of personality devoted to him.

Turgun Syzdykov, a 68-year-old former provincial official who has campaigned on an anti-globalization platform, is representing the Communist People's Party of Kazakhstan.

Abelgazy Kusainov, 63, who has held several important governmental positions and currently heads the national federation of trade unions, is standing as an independent after running a campaign touching on Kazakhstan's environmental problems.

Authorities in the Central Asian nation have said they hope the election will serve as a confirmation of legitimacy in uncertain times. Kazakhstan is facing a slowdown in economic growth amid falling oil prices and recession in neighboring Russia.

Senate leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stressed the importance of implementing programs of state reform directly associated with Nazarbayev and his campaign.

"Today we vote for the prosperity and progress of Kazakhstan," he told journalists.

Nazarbayev, whose official title is “Leader of the Nation”, is a former steel worker who promoted market reforms.

With the help of more than $200 billion in foreign direct investment, he has turned Kazakhstan into the second largest economy in the former Soviet Union and the second largest post-Soviet oil producer after Russia.

Nazarbavev’s most outspoken opponents did not run — billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov is fighting extradition in France and politician Vladimir Kozlof is in jail.

Al Jazeera with wire services

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