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Kazakhstan holds presidential polls

Presidential elections began on Sunday in Kazakhstan that has an electorate of over nine million.

world Updated: Apr 03, 2011 09:25 IST

Presidential elections began on Sunday in Kazakhstan that has an electorate of over nine million.

The voting at 9,700 polling stations started at 7 am and will be monitored by over 1,000 foreign observers, including 357 officials from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and 425 from former Soviet states.

According to Kazakh law, the results of elections are considered valid regardless of the voter turnout.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 70, called an early poll for April 3 after rejecting a planned referendum to extend his term until 2020, bypassing presidential elections scheduled for 2012 and 2017.

The Kazakh president's decision not to hold the referendum was praised by European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton as being in Kazakhstan's long-term interests.

The European Union earlier warned that the holding of the referendum instead of the elections would contradict Kazakhstan's commitment to democracy.

Nazarbayev, who has led Kazakhstan since it broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991, considers the election as a unique chance to "cement" the unity of the Kazakh people for the next five to ten years.