ASTANA -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has said there are no immediate plans to push forward the date of the country's next presidential election, which is scheduled for 2020.
His remarks in a February 5 video statement came amid speculation about a possible early election after his request for Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council to provide an official interpretation of an article from the country's constitution that deals with the termination of presidential duties.
In a video statement, Nazarbaev said that his request to the Constitutional Council was a "routine move" to get clarification about "when and in what cases an incumbent president can be released from office."
Nazarbaev said "there are no clear explanations on the matter while in other countries, their constitutions clearly define that."
Nazarbaev also said he has not been unable to resolve questions on the issue himself.
"Yes, the president has a right to announce an early presidential election, but that is not the case at this point," Nazarbaev said at the end of his video statement.
Speculation that Nazarbaev might again announce an early presidential election circulated on social media after the Constitutional Council said in a February 4 statement that Nazarbaev had requested that the council clarify Article 42, Section 3 of Kazakhstan's constitution.
That article says the powers of the current Kazakh president shall terminate as of "the moment the newly elected President of the Republic takes office" as well as in the event of the current president's "release from office, resignation, or death."
"All former Presidents of the Republic except those who were discharged from office shall have the title of ex-President of the Republic of Kazakhstan," it adds.
The 78-year-old Nazarbaev has been in power in energy-rich Kazakhstan since before the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
He was last elected in 2015, securing a five-year term after moving the date of the election vote up from 2016. That move was widely seen as an attempt to strengthen his grip on power.
Rights activists and critics say Nazarbaev has suppressed dissent, prolonged his time in office through undemocratic votes, and used the levers of power to neutralize potential political opponents.