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    Kazakhstan to hold early presidential elections on April 3 (Update 1)

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    Early presidential elections will take place in Kazakhstan on April 3.

    Early presidential elections will take place in Kazakhstan on April 3, according to a presidential decree published on Friday by official Kazakh media.

    The decree was signed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev earlier on Friday.

    Nazarbayev, 70, who has ruled the country since the breakup of the Soviet Union, proposed on Monday the holding of early presidential polls instead of those scheduled for 2012.

    The move came after Nazarbayev rejected a referendum prolonging the president's term until 2020.

    On Monday, the Constitutional Council of Kazakhstan declared the proposed referendum unlawful, saying it would run against the country's constitution.

    Nazarbayev still had the right to veto the council's decision, but he refused to do so. Earlier, the country's parliament approved the referendum, in spite of Nazarbayev's original veto.

    In his address to the people on Tuesday, Nazarbayev said the situation should be viewed as a "historic democratic lesson of obeying the constitution."

    "Guided by the country's highest interests, I decided not to hold the referendum," he said.

    On Wednesday, Kazakhstan's lower house of parliament approved amendments to the country's constitution allowing the head of state to announce early presidential elections. The bill came into force on Thursday.

    Nazarbayev's decision not to hold the referendum was praised by the European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton as being in Kazakhstan's long-term interests.

    The European Union earlier warned that the holding of the referendum instead of the scheduled elections would contravene Kazakhstan's commitment to democracy.

     

    ASTANA, February 4 (RIA Novosti)

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