Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev won a new term by a landslide in Sunday's election, the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced.
Nazarbayev extended his quarter-century rule over the oil-rich, ex-Soviet republic with 97.7 percent of ballots in an election where opposition parties did not put forward any candidates. The 74-year-old former steelworker ran against two candidates widely seen as pro-government figures.
Turnout was 95.22 percent, CEC head Kuandyk Turgankulov told a news briefing,on Monday.
After the official announcement, Nazarbayev apologised for winning re-election with 97.7 percent of the vote. He said it would have "looked undemocratic" for him to intervene to make his victory more modest.
Nazarbayev’s victory was celebrated in cities across the country with fireworks and flash mobs. Television showed a triumphant Nazarbayev walking on a red carpet, smiling, shaking hands and greeting thousands of jubilant supporters at what officials called "The Victors' Forum" held in a stadium in the capital Astana.
The strategically located country, bordering both Russia and China, has never held an election deemed free and fair by international monitors. The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe said in an election observation report there was a lack of a credible opposition: "Voters were not offered a genuine choice between political alternatives," it said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping promptly congratulated Nazarbayev on his re-election.
Nazarbayev has promoted market reforms and attracted $200 billion in foreign direct investment, turning his steppe nation of 17 million into the second-largest economy in the former Soviet Union and No. 2 post-Soviet oil producer after Russia.
The election was called more than a year before Nazarbayev's term was due to end, averting the risk of another year of economic pain. With the decline in global energy prices and by economic difficulty in neighbouring Russia, hit by Western sanctions over Ukraine, the snap elections were called to bring in more stability to the country.
Kazakhstan has been criticised by the West and human rights bodies for crackdowns on dissent. Most of Nazarbayev's vocal critics have either been jailed or fled the country.
Nazarbayev says he seeks a strong state and prosperity for a population including Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, ethnic Germans and Tatars. Only then can democratic reform follow.