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Kazakhstan Endorses Campaign To Extend Nazarbaev's Rule

Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission has endorsed an effort by supporters of President Nursultan Nazarbaev to extend his term in office until 2020.

Earlier this month, a group of Nazarbaev supporters requested permission from the commission to start gathering signatures for a national referendum on the issue.

A commission spokeswoman told Reuters today that once 200,000 signatures had been collected, Nazarbaev himself would decide whether to hold the plebiscite.

Nazarbaev's current term is due to expire in 2012, but he already extended his term in office with a referendum in 1995.

During a joint session of parliament today, the speakers of both the upper and lower house helped form an initiative group to support the move toward a referendum.

The co-chairman of the opposition Azat party, Bulat Abilov, rejected the idea of a referendum, saying it violated citizens' constitutional right to elect and be elected.

compiled from agency reports