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Kazakh Leader Wins Landslide Election

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (L) greets supporters during the "Forward, together with the leader" forum in Astana, April 4, 2011

Kazakh election officials say President Nursultan Nazarbayev has won Sunday's presidential election, stretching his rule into a third decade.

The Central Election Commission said Monday the first official results show the incumbent has won 95.5 percent of the heavy voter turnout.

Mr. Nazarbayev says the numbers prove the "Kazakh people approve of the work I have been doing these 20 years."

However, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, which had approximately 300 observers monitoring the vote, said in a statement that the vote count and tabulation lacked transparency. The group also cited what it called "serious irregularities," including ballot box stuffing and identical signatures on voter lists.

Analysts predict President Nazarbayev, whose tenure began when Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, will seek another term in 2016.

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.

Analysts see the organizing of a snap election, in part, as an effort to preempt any revolt by bolstering Mr. Nazarbayev's democratic credentials. Meanwhile, the country's main opposition leaders have complained that there was not enough time to organize a meaningful campaign.

The OSCE said the election happened in a "non-competitive environment" because there was no "vibrant political discourse" in the run-up to the vote.

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

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