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Kazakh president's party crushes opposition

Associated Press - January 16, 2012

Dalton Bennett, Astana, Kazakhstan Election officials in Kazakhstan said Monday that three parties have won seats in the parliament, ending the total control once held by the president's party.

However, President Nursultan Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party remains the overwhelming force in the legislature, winning 80.7 percent of the vote in Sunday's election.

Nur Otan had held all elected seats in the previous 107-member parliament. Nine deputies are nominated by a presidential advisory body.

According to results released by the Central Elections Commission, two other parties got slightly more than 7 percent each of the nationwide vote, clearing the threshold for gaining seats. They are the business-oriented Ak Zhol, which avoids confrontation with the government, and the People's Communist Party. There was no immediate breakdown on the number of seats for each party.

The All-National Social Democratic Party, which was the only robust government critic among the seven parties competing, said it did not recognize the legitimacy of the election and plans protest meetings. It tallied 1.6 percent of the vote.

"The government has before its own people and the entire world perpetrated mass fraud in the election (and) once again proved its political and moral corruption," the party said in a statement.

Despite the low-key campaigning season and the exclusion of two populist parties, official figures indicated a healthy turnout of around 75 percent nationwide.

The elections took place in the shadow of an unusual outburst of discontent and violence last month.

In December, a long-term protest in the town of Zhanaozen by oil workers who had been fired after striking for better pay degenerated into clashes with police who opened fire. At least 16 people were killed, and the bloodshed set off a riot in another town where police killed one person.

Authorities said voting proceeded without incident in the town. Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were due to issue their assessment on the vote later Monday.

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