Recently the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev was elected for the fourth term, with a record-breaking 95.5% of the vote. He has now ruled as President since 1990 and will continue in office until 2016 when the next election is scheduled to be held. So he is fast coming up on 26 years in power, not counting his time as head of the Kazakh SSR in the Soviet period.
When the world thinks of developing countries, and particularly those in the post-Soviet space, the assumption is that the elections are rigged. And there is plenty of reason to be suspicious of Nazarbayev's past results. In 1999, he ran unopposed. In 2005, the OSCE heavily criticized the presidential election as unfree and unfair with accusations of media bias, problems registering opposition candidates, lack of transparency of election laws, voter intimidation and ballot stuffing. The current election was seen as better, but still there were signs of ballot stuffing and voters being pressured to vote for Nazarbayev.
Several times, he has even avoided an election all together. In 1995, a referendum of the people voted to extend his first term by 5 years, until the year 2000. Incidentally, 95.5% of voters voted for it, the same number that just re-elected him this week. And more recently, a proposal for a referendum sponsored by government employees and supported by Nazarbayev's party almost passed to extend his term until 2020.
And a constitutional amendment last year gave the President the status of Leader of the Nation, which, among other things, makes it a crime to insult him, deface his image or misrepresent his biography. This makes it hard to campaign effectively against him. There have also been several cases of journalists who criticize the Administration mysteriously dying or disappearing, most recently the publisher of Respublika.