Kazakhstan is holding a presidential election on January 10. The only question in this election is the margin of incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s victory. He faces the risk that overzealous local officials may needlessly magnify his victory margin, as was the case in last October’s presidential election in Azerbaijan. The other candidates in Kazakhstan’s presidential race are the independent Senator Engels Gabbasov (see the profile in the Monitor, December 23), Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin, and State Customs Committee chief Gani Kasymov, who is generally perceived as a strawman for Nazarbaev. All three challengers stand, in varying degrees, to the left of the president (Itar-Tass, January 3-7).
Former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin had planned to run and was potentially the strongest challenger to Nazarbaev. Kazhegeldin had accumulated a large personal fortune while in government. His presidential candidacy was disqualified by the courts under a law which bars the candidacy of persons convicted of crimes or misdemeanors of any kind. Kazhegeldin had been convicted and fined for a misdemeanor last year after attending a meeting of an unregistered political organization. His program was leftist and pro-Russian and he had banked mainly on the “Russian-speaking” opposition to Nazarbaev.
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