Kazakhstan's president was just re-elected with an outrageous 97.7 percent of the vote

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev
Five more years for President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who's already ruled Kazakhstan for 26 years.
Sean Gallup

KYIV, Ukraine — Elections in Kazakhstan aren't known for their close calls.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has led the oil-rich Central Asian country since 1989, and he just made winning a fifth term look suspiciously easy. On Sunday, he won re-election yet again with a colossal 97.7 percent of the vote.

And that’s not it: About 95 percent of the electorate showed up to the polls, officials said, handing the former communist a mandate most Western leaders could only dream of.

There are just a few problems.

“The incumbent and his political party dominate politics, and there is lack of a credible opposition in the country,” Cornelia Jonker, head of the monitoring mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said in a statement Monday.

The OSCE, which monitors elections in the former Soviet Union, also said the vote was marked by irregularities and a lack of open debate. In Kazakhstan, critics claim, carefully choreographed elections are less about competition and more about legitimizing the near-cult status of Nazarbayev.   

Case in point: His only two opponents in the race, who collectively took about 2 percent, openly supported him. Any genuine critics have been jailed or forced into exile.

Nazarbayev, 74, even made a snarky apology for his uber-landslide, although he really appears to have no regrets.

“I apologize that for super-democratic states such figures are unacceptable,” he told a post-election news conference Monday, Reuters reported. “But I could do nothing. If I had interfered, I would have looked undemocratic, right?”

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