Kazakh parliament backs Nazarbayev referendum

ASTANA – The Kazakh parliament voted unanimously January 14 to amend the Constitution to permit a referendum extending President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s term until 2020, news media reported.

The amendment also bestows upon Nazarbayev the title of Leader of the Nation.

Nazarbayev earlier refused to approve the referendum, leading parliament to amend the constitution to bypass his veto.

The Central Election Commission said about 5m people have signed petitions in support of the referendum to extend Nazabayev’s term. Members of the political opposition have expressed doubts that so many signatures could have been collected.

The referendum will effectively cancel presidential elections in 2012. Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan since 1990.