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Kazakh Parliament Passes Bill On Early Polls

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev
Kazakhstan's parliament today approved amendments to the constitution allowing President Nursultan Nazarbaev to call an early presidential election.

Nazarbaev, whose current term expires in 2012, on January 31 rejected a plan to hold a referendum to extend his rule until 2020, saying that he would instead call an early election.

The planned referendum had been strongly criticized by both the United States and the European Union.

The bill amending the constitution was unanimously approved by the parliament's two houses today and now has to be signed into law by the president.

The 70-year-old Nazarbaev has ruled Kazakhstan for more than 20 years.

Nazarbaev -- as the first president of the country -- has the exclusive right to run for the presidency an unlimited number of times.

compiled from agency reports