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Kazakh President Set for Easy Re-election


Children walk past a poster of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in his native village of Ushkonyr, outside Almaty, March 15, 2011.

Children walk past a poster of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in his native village of Ushkonyr, outside Almaty, March 15, 2011.

Kazakhstan is holding a presidential election Sunday which President Nursultan Nazarbayev is expected to win easily.

The 70-year-old leader's current term ends in 2012, but he called for snap elections after rejecting a proposed referendum that would have extended his rule until 2020.

While posters and billboards for the president line city streets in the Central Asian nation, Nazarbayev himself declined to actively campaign. Still, some expect the president to get more than 90 percent of the vote.

Nazarbayev faces three challengers, all from minor parties.

Kazakhstan's main opposition leaders are urging voters to boycott, saying there was not enough time to organize a meaningful campaign in time for the April 3 vote.

Kazakhstan has never held an election deemed free and fair by international observers.

Analysts view the organization of a snap election, in part, as an effort to pre-empt any possible revolt.

Regional experts say the government is apprehensive that the opposition movements in North Africa and the Middle East could spread to Kazakhstan.

President Nazarbayev in effect has single-handedly led the energy-rich nation since before it gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.

The Kazakh leader is credited with further boosting the fast-growing economy. The oil-rich country is already one of the wealthiest in Central Asia.

President Nazarbayev is expected to seek another term in 2016.

The president's opponents in the April election include Gani Kasymov of the Party of Patriots, Communist Party leader Zhambyl Akhmetbekov and environmentalist Mels Yeleusizov.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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