Elections in Kazakhstan aren’t exactly known to be close calls.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev has led the oil-rich Central Asian country since 1989, just made winning a fifth term look suspiciously easy.
On Sunday, he won re-election, yet again, with a statistically impossible 97.7 percent of the vote.
But the election gets better: A stunning 95 percent of the electorate showed up to the polls, officials proudly stated.
There are just a few problems.
“The incumbent and his political party dominate politics, and there is lack of a credible opposition in the country,” Cornelia Jonker, head of the fair election monitoring mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said in a statement Monday.
The OSCE, which is tasked with monitoring elections in the former Soviet Union, also said the vote was marked by voting irregularities and a complete lack of open debate. Carefully choreographed elections are less about competition and more about legitimizing the cult status of Nazarbayev.
And example: His only two opponents in the race, who collectively took only 2 percent of the popular vote, openly supported him.
Any legitimate critics have been jailed or forced into exile.
Mr. Nazarbayev, who is 74, made a snarky apology for his uber-landslide, although he appears to have no real regrets.
“I apologize that for super-democratic states such figures are unacceptable,” he told a post-election news conference Monday. “But I could do nothing. If I had interfered, I would have looked undemocratic, right?”