Kazakhs to choose new parliament

Astana, March 19 (IANS) Kazakhs are set to choose a new parliament after six political parties vying for seats in the lower house ended their election campaigns on Saturday.

Some 10 million voters will cast their ballot on Sunday in early legislative elections in which president Nursultan Nazabayev’s ruling Nur Otan party is expected to maintain its overwhelming majority, EFE news reported.

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Up for grabs are 98 seats in the 107-seat lower house of parliament, or Mazhilis, that are to be filled by candidates chosen by popular vote to serve a five-year term.

The remaining nine seats are delegated to the chamber from the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, a constitutional body made up of representatives from the nation’s over 100 ethnic groups.

Voters will also cast their ballots for local government bodies, or Maslikhats.

Nazarbayev, who won early presidential elections by a landslide 11 months ago, set the March 20 election date a week after lawmakers voted on January 13 to dissolve the Mazhilis and hold a snap election due to the difficult economic situation in the oil-rich Central Asian nation, which has been hard hit by the plunge in global crude prices.

Six parties are fielding a total of 234 candidates approved by the country’s Central Election Commission.

More than 800 international and 10,000 local election observers will be making the rounds to ensure fair elections at 9,840 polling stations across the world’s ninth-largest country.

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