Kazakhstan: into election with strong economy, troubled politics

THE ELECTION: President Nursultan Nazarbayev is seeking a fresh seven-year term amid concerns that if the election is judged unfair, the opposition will mount the kind of protests that have brought down governments in other ex-Soviet countries, Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

KAZAKHSTAN'S IMPORTANCE: The Central Asian country is rich in oil and natural gas, is strategically positioned between Russia and China, and has a troop contingent in Iraq. The United States has pressed for democratic reform, albeit in a low-key way.

THE LIKELY OUTCOME: Polls predict a big win for the incumbent, but much depends on whether European monitors judge the voting to have been free and fair, reported AP. P.T.

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