Kazakhstan to hold early presidential elections

January 31st, 2011 - 10:37 pm ICT by BNO News  

ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN (BNO NEWS) — Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Monday announced that his country will hold presidential elections earlier than expected, RIA Novosti reported.

The announcement was made after the Kazakh Constitutional Council on Monday declared unlawful a referendum that proposed to bypass the 2012 presidential elections and extend Nazarbayev’s term until 2020.

The constitutional council said that the referendum represented a violation to the Kazakh constitution. On January 14, the Parliament decided to adopt constitutional amendments that will allow, through a national referendum, the extension of the term in office of President Nazarbayev for another eight years.

“Guided by the country’s highest interests, I decided not to hold the referendum. I propose holding early presidential elections,” said Nazarbayev.

The 70-year-old leader Nazarbayev has been the leader of Kazakhstan since 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. The proposed amendments were voted unanimously at the Parliament.

However, the international community condemned the adoption. The European Union urged Nazarbayev and lawmakers to allow free and fair elections in 2012 as replacing them with a referendum on a single presidential candidate would cast doubts on Kazakhstan’s commitment to democracy.

In addition, the national referendum would not be consistent with OSCE principles, reaffirmed in the recent Astana Commemorative Declaration. This decision could also cause unrest and demonstrations as well as political turmoil.

The proposed referendum would have been the second for Nazarbayev. In 1995, an extension of Nazarbayev’s presidential term was approved. The long-time leader was granted an extension until December 2000.

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