Exit Poll: 2 New Parties Win Seats in Kazakhstan Parliament

Posted January 15th, 2012 at 7:50 pm (UTC-5)
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As many as two new political parties could enter Kazakhstan's parliament, where every seat is currently held by the ruling party.

An exit poll taken after Sunday's parliamentary elections gives the pro-business Ak Zhol party and the Communist People's Party at least seven percent of the vote each.

Under Kazakhstan's new election law, the second-place finisher automatically gets seats. But any party that gets at least seven percent of the vote also wins seats.

The same exit poll shows President Nursultan Nazarbayev's Nur Otan's party winning about 80 percent of the vote.

Mr. Nazarbayev calls his party's likely huge win a sign of stability and support for his government.

The first official results are expected Monday, about the same time European election monitors issue their preliminary report.

Sunday's elections were held a month after a protest by laid-off government oil workers in the town of Zhanaozen turned violent, leaving at least 15 people dead. Authorities in the town originally cancelled voting, but President Nazarbayev ordered it to be held as scheduled.

Such anti-government violence is rare in Kazakhstan, where despite a lack of free speech and human rights, the country's oil wealth has brought a higher standard of living than in most other Central Asian former Soviet states.

Mr. Nazarbayev has been Kazakhstan's only president since it gained independence in 1991.