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Kazakh Oppositionists Criticize Proposed Referendum On Presidential Term

President Nursultan Nazarbaev or Dorian Gray?
President Nursultan Nazarbaev or Dorian Gray?
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Several prominent Kazakh opposition politicians have voiced objections to a proposed nationwide referendum on extending President Nursultan Nazarbaev's term in office until 2020, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The idea for the referendum was floated last week by an initiative group in the northeastern city of Oskemen.

On December 27 the central election commission officially registered the motion to hold the referendum and said supporters could start gathering the 200,000 signatures needed for it to be held.

One day later, Ult Tagdyry (Conscience of the Nation) movement leader Dosh Koshim questioned the point of holding such a referendum. He said "we all know perfectly well" that Nazarbaev will win reelection in a presidential election due in 2012.

Khasen Kozhakhmet of the Zholtoqsan (December) movement said holding such a referendum is illegal.

Opposition politician Zhasaral Quanyshalin responded by saying at a press conference in Almaty that he will insist the 2012 presidential ballot be held on schedule but without the participation of Nazarbaev.

Another leading oppositionist, Mukhtar Shakhanov, told RFE/RL that it is imperative to reform the entire electoral system as the current law sets no limit to the number of presidential terms Nazarbaev may serve.

Nazarbaev, 70, was first elected president in December 1991. His term was prolonged by means of a referendum in 1995, and he was reelected in 1999 and 2005.

Read in Kazakh here