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Kazakh Election Campaign Off to Quiet Start

A man walks past an election poster of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Almaty, Feb. 22, 2011.

Kazakhstan's presidential campaign got underway Thursday with little doubt incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev will win the April 3 vote.

Mr. Nazarbayev has led the energy-rich nation since before it gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991 and has said he will not actively campaign for reelection.

He faces only three challengers, all from minor parties, while Kazakhstan's leading opposition leaders are calling for voters to boycott the election. Many call the vote a sham.

The 70-year-old Nazarbayev'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.

The Kazakh parliament said in January that the controversial referendum should go ahead, but the constitutional court later rejected the plan.

President Nazarbayev opponents in the April election include Gani Kasymov with the Party of Patriots, Communist Party leader Zhambyl Akhmetbekov and environmentalist Mels Yeleusizov.