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Kazakh Opposition Names Challenger To Nazarbaev

President Nazarbaev (file photo) 20 March 2005 -- Kazakhstan's opposition groups today named former parliament speaker Zharmakhan Tuyakbai as their candidate to run for president against longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Tuyakbai is seen as one of most influential political figures in Kazakhstan. His surprise resignation from the post of parliament speaker in October to protest allegedly flawed parliamentary elections was seen as a boost to the opposition.

Tuyakbai today accused Nazarbaev of expanding his presidential powers to "an absurd extent" and resisting calls for democracy.

Associated Press reports Tuyakbai was addressing a rally of 600 opposition activists from across the country in the commercial capital Almaty. The opposition groups formed an alliance called For Fair Kazakhstan.

Controversy surrounds the date of the country's next presidential elections, with election officials saying it will be held in December 2006 but the opposition saying it must be held in December this year.