Kazakhstan is going to hold snap elections on April 3. A landslide victory for the incumbent presiden Nazarbayev is almost inevitable. The only thing that the Kazakhs are unsure off is the election turnout.
"Like there is no second sun in the sky, there can't be a president other than Nursultan Nazarbayev!"
These days, all radio and television channels in Kazakhstan are carrying one tune - a boy band and a female singer encouraging people to "vote for Kazakhstan, because it’s precious to all of us." The message is crystal clear: vote for Kazakhstan, vote for Nazarbayev.
The song is supposed to infuse some life into an otherwise boring election campaign. The winner has already been decided: the incumbent president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who's been in office for 20 years.
Nazarbayev has ruled the oil-rich country since Soviet times
Originally, Nazarbayev's term in office was to end in 2012. He hadn’t planned on running again. Nazarbayev hoped a referendum would confirm him as president until 2020. But when he realized that the constitutional council might overthrow the referendum, Nazarbayev ditched the idea and announced snap elections instead.
Nazarbayev moved very quickly, in just two months everything was set for the elections. Political experts speculate about the reasons: Is he afraid of an Egyptian style uprising? Does he fear the wrath of his people triggered by exploding food prices? Or is he perhaps just concerned about his health?
Many farmers stay poor in oil-rich Kazakhstan
Whatever the reasons for the snap election, one thing has been drummed into everybody’s heads: there is no alternative to the incumbent president. At the party convention of Nazarbayev's party "Nur Otan" in mid-February, all participants were full of praise for the president. One party member even said that Nazarbayev is a gift to the nation. He added "Like there is no second sun in the sky, there can't be another president than Nursultan Nazarbayev!"
No time to campaign
But how about the opposition? The main opposition parties, for example the Social Democrats, are boycotting the election. Co-chair of the Social-Democratic Party, Bulat Abilov, argues there has not been enough time to prepare for the election
"If we try to print new posters and brochures then people will tell us there are problems with the printing machine. Then there is going to be trouble with the distribution. That is bound to happen, we just know it," Abilov complains.
Brochures demanding Nazarbayev to resign are distributed before the snap election
With or without new pamphlets, no opposition candidate seems to be convincing enough to win against Nazarbayev.
But even if the opposition has no real chance at winning, some still have a speck of hope. If the turnout for the election is low, then this snap election will be stamped as a farce. But until then, Kazakhstan will have to live with its old and new president and with his bad campaign music.
Authors: Anatolij Weisskopf/Birgit Görtz/zer
Editor: Sarah Berning