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Kazakh Ruling Party To Convene Ahead Of Presidential Poll

ASTANA -- Kazakhstan's ruling Nur Otan party will hold a congress on March 11, weeks ahead of an early election that is expected to prolong President Nursultan Nazarbaev's rule.

Nur Otan deputy chairman Bauyrzhan Baibek told reporters on February 26 that the delegates to the meeting of the party, which is headed by Nazarbaev, will be nominated in Kazakhstan's regions in a week.

The statement comes one day after Nazarbaev announced that an early presidential election will be held on April 26.

Nazarbaev, in power since 1989, said he would not yet reveal whether he would seek reelection, but the party is likely to propose his candidacy.

The next presidential vote had been scheduled for 2016, but an assembly chaired by Nazarbaev proposed on February 14 that the vote be held this year.

Analysts say Nazarbaev is eager to start a new term soon because of concerns that economic troubles stemming from lower world oil prices and Western sanctions against trade partner Russia could undermine his popular support.

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