02/04/2011, 00.00
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President Nazarbayev sets 3 April for his re-election

His current mandate ends in 2012, but the 70-year-old president wants to stay on for more years. He has been in power since 1991 and since then has consolidated his hold. With no domestic rivals, he has the support of the international community and world finance.
Astana (AsiaNews/Agencies) –Kazakh President Nursultan Narzarbayev has called for a presidential election on 3 April even if his mandate ends in 2012. Parliament had recently approved a referendum that would have allowed him to stay in power until 2020, but the Constitutional Council ruled it unconstitutional. In a televised address last Monday, the president agreed with the council’s decision.

The referendum has proved very controversial in the country over the past few months. A petition campaign in favour of the referendum had gathered the support of as many as 5.5 million, over 50 per cent of eligible voters.

“Spontaneous” rallies of support were also held across the country, and a media campaign insisted that the President alone was the guarantor of the country’s continued stable development.

The new election confirms that Nazarbayev, 70, plans to stay in power for life. He has ruled Kazakhstan since it became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991 and everyone expects him to win easily in the April election.

Analysts believe that the issue is a sign that a battle for succession is already underway, especially since Nazarbayev has not picked a successor. His re-election would the matter on ice for a few more years.

Previous polls were marred by accusations of vote rigging. Parliament contains only representatives of the Nur Otan party, which President Nazarbayev leads.

A change to the constitution in 2007 allows Nursultan Nazarbayev to stand in presidential elections for an unlimited number of times.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) expressed support for the elections. He also has the trust of the international community, even though the United States and the European Union have criticised his autocratic rule.

Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s most powerful nation, is rich in energy and minerals. Despite its poor human rights record, the stifling of political opposition and the concentration of power in the hands of the first family, countries have lined up to have good relations with Astana and access to its resources.

Foreign investors see favourably Nazarbayev’s re-election as insurance for continuity in economic policy.

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