Kazakhstan

Kazakh President ready to stay in power until 2020

Reuters

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Friday he was ready to stay in power as long as required, as his country prepares to hold a referendum on whether to extend his term until 2020. The 70-year-old had been expected to sign a bill that paves the way for the vote, but he has first sent it for review to the Constitutional Council.

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"I am ready to work for as long as my health allows me. People's trust means a lot to me," Nazarbayev said, during an annual address to the people of the central Asian state.

"I understood the signal of the people: do not leave your post, continue work. We should do our best to serve our people. All of this we have created together, from scratch, with me at the helm.”

The country’s parliament earlier this month voted to hold a referendum on prolonging Nazarbayev's rule to 2020. His decision to involve the Constitutional Council before pressing ahead with the vote is seen as a token gesture and an attempt to distance himself from the efforts to extend his rule.

"Whatever decision the Constitutional Council takes, I promise that I will work if my health allows me," he said.

Five million Kazakhs - more than half of the electorate - have signed a petition backing the reform. A yes vote would allow Nazarbayev to skip planned presidential elections in 2012 and 2017.

Nazarbayev has ruled the country since it became independent from the Soviet Union and will have been in power for three decades if he is still president in 2020.

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