ASTANA -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has completed his 25th year as president, two days before an election that appears certain to prolong his rule.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev appointed Nazarbaev as the Kazakh Communist Party's First Secretary in 1989, and on April 24, 1990 his title was changed to President of Kazakhstan.
Nazarbaev was then elected in December 1991, shortly before Kazakhstan became an independent state. In 1995, his term was prolonged until 2000 through a referendum. He then won an early presidential election in 1999, a poll in 2005 and another early election in 2011.
Kazakhstan's next presidential election had been scheduled for 2016, but the vote was moved up to April 26 after a national assembly chaired by Nazarbaev decided it should be held early to "ensure the continuity of the current policy."
Nazarbaev's critics say he has maintained power by oppressing dissent, curbing free media, and "illegally" changing the Central Asian nation's constitution.
Many of his opponents and critics had to leave the country. Some have been killed or died in controversial circumstances.