Millions of Kazakhs cast their votes on Sunday in the energy-rich Central Asian country in a ballot that is almost certain to re-elect the 74-year-old strongman incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The country's marginalised opposition has not put forward any candidates for the election and Nazarbayev is running against two candidates widely seen as pro-government figures.

Al Jazeera's Robin Forrestier Walker reporting from Kazakhstan's capital Astana, reported that "genuine opponents of Nazarbayev are busy elsewhere," with billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov fighting extradition in France and politician Vladimir Kozlof in jail. 

"Polls show that most people in Kazakhstan do support their president. The appearance of democracy may be enough for them - even if it's not the same as the real thing," he said.

A mainly Muslim country, Kazakhstan has managed to muster only nominal opponents to Nazarbayev.

Turgun Syzdykov, a 68-year-old former provincial official who has campaigned on an anti-globalisation platform, is representing the Communist People's Party of Kazakhstan.

Abelgazy Kusainov, 63, who has held several important governmental positions and currently heads the national federation of trade unions, is standing as an independent after running a campaign touching on Kazakhstan's environmental problems.

With the oil capital halved in value due to falling oil prices and the Russia-Ukraine tension creating uneasiness in the country, the snap elections were called in to bring in more stability to the country.

Senate leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stressed the importance of implementing programmes of state reform directly associated with Nazarbayev and his campaign.

"Today we vote for the prosperity and progress of Kazakhstan," he told journalists.

"This is not an election, it is a re-election," Dosym Saptaev, director of the Kazakhstan Risks Assessment Group, a think tank based in the largest city Almaty, told the AFP news agency.

Nazarbayev, officially titled Leader of the Nation, is a former steel worker who promoted market reforms.

With the help of more than $200bn in foreign direct investment, he has turned his steppe nation into the second largest economy in the former Soviet Union and No 2 post-Soviet oil producer after Russia.

Kazakhstan, with an estimated population of 17 million people, is the world's largest land locked country in Central Asia surrounded by Russia and former soviet countries.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies