Kazakhstan’s President-for-Life Nazarbayez Re-elected Autocrat

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev

Nursultan Nazarbayev has been re-elected president of Kazakhstan, winning 95.5 percent of the vote to crush three token opponents in a poll criticized by international observers as falling short of democratic standards.

Nazarbayev, who has ruled the Central Asian nation since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, increased his total from the 91.15 percent that he won in his 2005 re-election bid. Voter turnout was 89.9 percent.

Nazarbayev’s re-election means that there will be no change in the nation’s space policy. The government has been focused on strengthening and diversifying its space industry, which has been largely focused on conducting launches from the Baikonur Spaceport that it inherited from the Soviet Union.

The president has been credited with vastly improving living conditions for citizens and providing stability that has shielded the nation from the instability in the Middle East. He’s been criticized for running a one-party state where decisions are made by a small elite and insiders — including the president and his family — have enriched themselves.

The election was criticized by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as falling short of “genuine democratic” standards. OSCE had observers on the ground who observed numerous irregularities.

One of the president’s opponents, environmentalist Mels Yeleusizov, lost at least one vote: his own. He publicly said that he voted for Nazarbayev out of respect for the inevitable winner.