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Kazakh Group Pushing For Vote To Extend Nazarbaev's Rule


Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has led Kazakhstan since 1991.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has led Kazakhstan since 1991.

ALMATY -- A Kazakh civic organization says it has collected some 300,000 signatures in support of a referendum on extending the presidency of Nursultan Nazarbaev until 2020, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Members of the Initiative Group said it had collected the signatures in four days.

Kazakh law states that 200,000 signatures are needed for a referendum to be held.

Yerlan Sydykov, head of the Initiative Group, told RFE/RL that organizers will continue collecting signatures until January 11 and they plan to get some 2 million signatures in favor of the referendum.

Sydykov said the 320-member group has collected the signatures in several different parts of the country.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders have questioned methods the group has used to collect the signatures.

On December 27, the Kazakh Central Election Commission formally registered the motion to hold the referendum after receiving a petition from a "citizens' forum" in northeastern Kazakhstan. The commission still must receive and certify the signatures being gathered.

On December 29, the parliament -- which is dominated by the pro-presidential Nur-Otan party -- formally approved a plan to hold the referendum.

If a majority of people vote in the referendum to extend Nazarbaev's term, a presidential election set for 2012 would not be held and Nazarbaev -- who turned 70 years old in July and has been president since 1991 -- could serve for another decade.

Parliament changed the constitution in 2007 to allow a president to serve an unlimited number of terms.

In the spring, parliament voted to make Nazarbaev "leader of the nation."
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