Kazakhstan's leading opposition party will on Friday launch a nationwide campaign urging people not to vote in the forthcoming presidential election.
As the campaign starts without a genuine rival to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the former Soviet republic's long-standing president, Vladimir Kozlov, head of the Alga! Party, will announce he is teaming up with the Communist Party, and more than 55 non-governmental organisations to push for a nationwide boycott.
"We have developed a schedule of boycott propaganda, and it will be released everywhere in Kazakhstan," Mr Kozlov said on Thursday, the official start date of the campaign. "Our goal is to bring the countrywide proportion of people who vote down to 30 per cent. It will mean that even if Nazarbayev gets his 96 per cent of the vote, it will be 96 per cent of only 30 per cent of the nation."
The opposition has already released satirical videos on YouTube, which ridicule the Kazakh language test each presidential candidate had to pass, and compare the electorate with a herd of sheep.
Mr Nazarbayev, who has ruled since the final days of the Soviet Union, has decided not to campaign in the month running up to the April 3 poll. His rivals are facing "a fight for second place", his adviser Yermukhamet Yertysbayev said.
"The president actually has work to do. He is not like some opposition figures who have too much time on his hands, and nothing to do but talk," Mr Yertysbayev added.
Only three rival candidates have successfully registered for the campaign: Mels Yeleusizov, a green campaigner; Gani Kasymov, from the Party of Patriots; and Zhambyl Akhmetbekov, from the Communist People's Party of Kazakhstan.
"They are all backup candidates," Mr Kozlov said. "They were asked by the president's administration to become candidates, because otherwise it would be only unemployed people and housewives running."
Mr Kozlov and Bulat Abilov, leader of the opposition Azat party, both decided to boycott the poll when Mr Nazarbayev announced on January 31 that he was bringing forward elections from 2012. Mr Kozlov, an ethnic Russian, argued he could not learn the Kazakh language in time, and Mr Abilov argued that he needed more than a month's notice to prepare.
Both the US and the European Union commended the decision to hold the election, which put an end to plans to hold a referendum that could have cancelled elections until 2020.