The Kazakh Central Election Commission approved on Monday the holding of a referendum on extending President Nursultan Nazarbayev's term of office until 2020, the commission's head, Kuandyk Turgankulov, said.
An initiative group submitted on Friday a request to the Central Election Commission to approve the holding of the referendum instead of presidential elections scheduled for 2012.
The head of the Astana city council, Vladimir Redkokashin, said it was necessary because "as of now, there is no alternative to Nursultan Abishevich [Nazarbayev], the Leader of the Nation and the president of our country." The holding of the referendum, he said, is a "very positive initiative" which is supported by the "overwhelming majority" of the Kazakh people.
Nazarbayev, 69, has ruled the Central Asian state for 21 years, as first secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party from 1989, and since the breakup of the Soviet Union as president of Kazakhstan.
In June, the title of "Leader of the Nation" was bestowed upon him by his country's lawmakers. The title gives him a wide range of privileges after the expiry of his presidential term.
Redkokashin said on Friday the referendum may be held as early as in March 2011.
According to Kazakh law, at least 200,000 people eligible to take part in the referendum and equally representing different regions should sign a request to the country's president to hold a referendum.
The referendum on extending Nazarbayev's presidential term would become the second in Kazakhstan's history. In 1995, his term, due to expire that year, was extended until December 2000.
ASTANA, December 27 (RIA Novosti)