Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev pledged on Friday to remain in office as long as his health allows him to.
"I have received a signal from the people - don't leave office, continue working. If my health allows me, if I have the people's support, I will work as long as I am allowed to," Nazarbayev, 70, said on Friday during his annual address to parliament.
Earlier in the month, the Kazakh legislature voted unanimously in favor of holding a referendum to extend the rule of long-serving Nazarbayev until 2020, bypassing elections due in 2012.
Nazarbayev, who has ruled the Central Asian state since the collapse of the Soviet Union, vetoed parliament's original call for a referendum, but the recent vote overrode his objections.
The EU has condemned plans for the referendum, saying this would go against Kazakhstan's commitment to democracy. It also urged Kazakhstan, which held the OSCE's rotating presidency in 2010, to "continue to strive for regular, free and fair elections in line with its constitution and OSCE commitments."
A group of Kazakh non-governmental organizations has made a public appeal for Nazarbayev to go ahead with the 2012 elections.
In June, the title of "Leader of the Nation" was bestowed upon Nazarbayev by his country's lawmakers. The title gives him a wide range of privileges after the expiry of his presidential term.
The referendum on extending Nazarbayev's presidential term would be the second such case. In 1995, his term, due to expire that year, was extended until December 2000.
ASTANA, January 28 (RIA Novosti)