Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev was reelected yesterday to another seven-year term of office. According to the Central Electoral Commission’s preliminary data, the turnout was 86 percent and Nazarbaev won close to 80 percent of the votes cast. Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin was the runner-up with 12 percent, followed by Customs Committee chief Gani Kasymov and independent Senator Engels Gabbasov.
Nazarbaev’s landslide had been fully expected and was not questioned by international observers. However, the Western monitors strongly criticized the Nazarbaev campaign for its excessive use of the advantages of presidential incumbency. This was the first multicandidate presidential election to be held in Kazakhstan. Nazarbaev, president since 1990, had until now won several single-candidate elections.
Nazarbaev announced yesterday that he would task the incumbent Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev to form a reshuffled government, in which at least the present heads of economic ministries would retain their posts (International news agencies, January 11).
Nazarbaev was born in 1940 in a village in the Almaty region in southeastern Kazakhstan. Trained as a metallurgical engineer, he spent most of his professional career at the giant Karagandy steel plant in northern Kazakhstan, rising from ordinary worker to managerial posts. In the usual Soviet career pattern, Nazarbaev was drafted for party work, to become secretary of the Kazakhstan Communist Party Central Committee (KCPCC) in 1979, chairman of the Kazakhstan SSR Council of Ministers in 1984, and first secretary of the KCPCC at the height of perestroika in 1989. When the party began yielding power to elective bodies, Nazarbaev was elected chairman of the republic’s Supreme Soviet in 1990 and president of the Kazakh SSR in the same year.
In December 1991, Nazarbaev was elected president of newly independent Kazakhstan by popular vote to a five-year term. In 1995, a referendum extended Nazarbaev’s mandate until the year 2000. Nazarbaev was credited with majorities of 99 percent of the votes cast in 1991 and 95 percent in 1995 (see Rinat Shamsutdinov, “The Legislative History of Presidential Government in Kazakhstan,” Prism, Vol. IV, No. 16, August 7, 1998″). In October 1998, the parliament, in agreement with Nazarbaev, called the anticipated election, which, in effect, extends Nazarbaev’s term of office until 2006.
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