President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev cemented a an extension of his current term in office by seven years after capturing more than 81% of the total vote in this weekend's snap election, according to the country’s Central Election Commission.
Elections were hastily called after Tokayev obtained nationwide approval of amendments to the Constitution earlier this year allowing him to seek a second term.
Political observers said voter turnout was low in most of Kazakhstan's larger cities, with less than 29% of registered voters arriving at polling stations in the country’s former capital Almaty, its largest city by population.
Overall turnout was around 69% of about 11.9 million of registered voters, according to authorities.
Low turnout in population centres — and with 6% of voters choosing the “against everybody” option on the ballot — could indicate widespread unhappiness with the country's current direction.
According to Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the presidential election took place “in a political environment lacking competitiveness" and "underlined the need for further reforms... to ensure genuine pluralism”.
OSCE said: “The incumbent stood as the joint candidate of all parliamentary parties and, in effect, was not meaningfully challenged in a low-key campaign.”
Only one of Tokayev’s competitors garnered more than 3% of the vote, with remaining four scoring just above 2% each.
The call for an extraordinary election to be held 18 months early was widely seen as a way for Tokayev to claim a new mandate to lead the country after the President resorted to bringing in Russian-led military units to disperse violent mass protests last January.
Following the protests, Tokayev has made a series of moves to distance himself from the legacy of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Oil export challenges
Ahead of constitutional changes, Kazakh politicians reiterated that the country's oil and gas resources should benefit all citizens, rather than a select group people related to or close to Nazarbayev's clan.
However, making the most of these resources could be a major challenge for Tokayev during his second term as Kazakhstan’s oil exports depend heavily on two pipelines that run through neighbouring Russia.
According to state-owned oil producer KazMunayGaz, the pipelines were responsible for shipping more than 95% of Kazakhstan's total oil production of almost 1.8 million barrels of oil per day to international markets last year.
The main route, operated by Caspian Pipeline Consortium, experienced several unplanned shipping restrictions over the course of the year, prompting Tokayev to announce initiatives to explore alternative export solutions despite the high cost.
KazMunayGaz said it anticipates steep increases in oil and condensate production at three large foreign-led developments in the country — Tengiz, Kashagan and Karachaganak — following ongoing and planned upgrade and expansion programmes.
Plans call for production at the Chevron-led Tengiz development to grow by 48%, to about 855,000 barrels of oil per day, after 2024, increasing the country’s total oil output by at least 15% from its current level.
The incremental production will likely be exported as domestic consumption has levelled off.