09:54 Mar. 20, 2016
Majority is expected to vote for President Nursultan Nazarbayev's Nur Otan rulling party
Citizens of energy-rich Kazakhstan went to the polls Sunday (March 20) in an early parliamentary election expected to provide a commanding majority for ageing autocrat President Nursultan Nazarbayev's ruling Nur Otan party.
Close to 10 million voters are eligible to cast votes in a ballot held early amid economic gloom in the Central Asian state and featuring six parties that mostly support the country's Russia-aligned leader.
Nazarbayev, 75, has ruled Kazakhstan virtually unopposed since before its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and has not named a successor.
Over 9,800 polling stations in the vast landlocked republic of 17 million people had opened by 0200 GMT, with voting across the country expected to conclude by 1500 GMT.
Analysts say the parties competing in the vote lack coherent ideologies or manifestos, and exist to provide democratic window dressing in the authoritarian state rocked by low oil prices.
"These are zombie parties. They take up space and make announcements, but principally do not have any particular sort of platform," Dosym Satpayev, Director of the Risk Assessment Group based in the country's largest city Almaty told AFP.
In addition to Nur Otan, two other parties from the outgoing legislature are competing, the pro-government Communist People's Party and Ak Zhol.