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Kazakhstan parliament approves bill on early presidential elections

RIA Novosti

12:44 02/02/2011 ASTANA, February 2 (RIA Novosti) - Kazakhstan's parliament approved amendments to the country's constitution on Wednesday allowing the head of state to announce early presidential elections.

The moved came after Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev refused on Monday to hold a referendum prolonging the president's term until 2020 and proposed holding early presidential elections instead of those originally due in 2012.

Under the bill Nazarbayev introduced to parliament on Tuesday, a new presidential ballot will be held within two months of the announcement of new elections.

On Monday, the Constitutional Council of Kazakhstan declared the proposed referendum unlawful, saying it would run against the country's constitution.

Nazarbayev still had the right to veto the council's decision, but he refused to do so. Earlier, the country's parliament approved the referendum, in spite of Nazarbayev's original veto.

In his address to the people on Tuesday, Nazarbayev, who has ruled the Central Asian state since the collapse of the Soviet Union, said the situation should be viewed as a "historic democratic lesson of obeying the constitution."

"Guided by the country's highest interests, I decided not to hold the referendum," he said.

Nazarbayev's decision was praised by the European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton as being in Kazakhstan's long-term interests.

The European Union earlier warned that the holding of the referendum instead of the scheduled elections would contravene Kazakhstan's commitment to democracy.

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