09:43 GMT +3 hours05 May 2016
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Kazakhstan holds snap presidential elections

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Over 9 million Kazakh citizens will come to polling stations on Sunday to vote for one of the four candidates vying for presidency, including incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

Over 9 million Kazakh citizens will come to polling stations on Sunday to vote for one of the four candidates vying for presidency, including incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

The voting at 9,700 polling stations started at 7.00 a.m. local time (01:00 GMT) and will be monitored by more than 1,000 foreign observers, including 357 officials from the Organization 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.

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.

 

ASTANA, April 3 (RIA Novosti)

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