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Kazakhstan goes to the polls in 'low-key' snap presidential election

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Voters in Kazakhstan are casting their ballots Sunday in a snap election that looks likely to return the incumbent president to power, in an election the OSCE has described as "low-key." Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who faced a bloody outburst of unrest early this year and then moved to marginalise some of the Central Asian country's longtime powerful figures, appears certain to win a new term against little-known challengers.Five candidates are on the ballot against Tokayev, but with a short campaign period that began in late October, they have had little opportunity to mount significant challenges.

Tokayev, apparently confident of holding a strong advantage, stayed away from a nationally televised election debate.The election for a seven-year term comes as Tokayev has taken steps to keep Kazakhstan's distance from longtime ally and dominant regional power Russia.

He pointedly said the country did not recognise the Ukrainian regions that Russia declared to be sovereign states at the outset of the conflict that began when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.Kazakhstan has taken in hundreds of thousands of Russians who fled after President Vladimir Putin issued a conscription order in September.When Tokayev became president in 2019 following the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, he was widely expected to continue the authoritarian course of the man who had led the resource-rich country since it gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Nazarbayev remained highly influential as head of the national security council, and the capital was renamed Nur-Sultan in his honor.Then a wave of violence shook the country in January, when provincial protests initially sparked by a fuel price hike engulfed other

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