Voting begins in Kazakhstan's parliamentary elections

Astana: Voters across Kazkhstan on Sunday began casting their ballots in early legislative elections to choose a new parliament. Polling stations opened at 7.00 a.m., EFE news agency reported. There are 234 hopefuls vying for 98 seats in the 107-seat lower house of parliament, or Mazhilis, with the remaining nine seats designated by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, a constitutional body made up of representatives from the nation's ethnic groups. The ruling Nur Otan party (83 seats) is expected to maintain its overwhelming majority, while the two main opposition parties in Parliament, the Ak Zhol Democratic Party of Kazakhstan and the Communist People's Party of Kazakhstan, will be trying to increase their representation in the chamber from the current eight and seven seats respectively. Three minor parties; the Auyl Social Democratic Party, the Nationwide Social Democratic Party and the Birlik (Unity) party, are also fielding candidates. Voters will also cast their ballots for local government bodies, or Maslikhats. Some 10 million people are eligible at 9,840 polling stations across the world's ninth-largest country. The first official results are expected on Monday. More than 800 international observers are on hand to monitor voting, which the government of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev pledged to make sure is carried out "in accordance with the highest democratic standards."