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Kazakh leader to rule indefinitely

By Raushan Nurshayeva in Kazakhstan

Article from: Reuters

KAZAKHSTAN'S veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev has been in effect declared President-for-life in a move condemned by the nation's opposition as undemocratic.

The Central Asian state's Parliament voted overwhelmingly to allow Mr Nazarbayev, in power since 1989, to run for the presidency an unlimited number of times.

Kazakhstan has never held elections judged free and fair by Western monitors.

Mr Nazarbayev can theoretically reject the proposal which has to be signed by him to come into effect.

In a public show of loyalty, his allies competed to try to convince him to agree.

“Having witnessed this man's will, courage and wisdom, I am happy ... he is in excellent intellectual and physical form, he is a driving force for our nation,” State Secretary Kanat Saudabayev said.

“If he does use this opportunity, it will only be a blessing for our nation, for our young independent state.”

Parliamentarian Yermek Zhumabayev said after the vote: “Taking into account the first President's historic role as one of the founders of a new, independent Kazakhstan ... the joint (parliamentary) commission adopted this decision.”

Only one unidentified Member of Parliament in more than 100 deputies of both legislative chambers voted against the law which applies only to Mr Nazarbayev.

All subsequent leaders can only stay for two terms, according to the law.

The Opposition said the move was a backwards step for the oil-rich state where the political scene is dominated by kin-based clan divisions.

“It's a further roll-back of democracy,” Oraz Zhandosov, a leader of the opposition Real Ak Zhol party, told Reuters.

“It's common practice: they want to (show) that it's not the President who wants this, but the people.”

Mr Nazarbayev, a 66-year-old whose current term expires in 2012, has given no indication when, or indeed whether, he plans to stand aside or who might succeed him.

Parliament also approved a set of constitutional changes including a proposal to cut the presidential term to five years


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