[QODLink]
Europe
Kazakhstan to hold snap election
Nursultan Nazarbayev calls for early presidential election after rejecting plan to hold a controversial referendum.
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2011 07:35 GMT
US State Department welcomed the president's decision, calling it "the right decision" [GALLO/GETTY]

Kazakhstan's president has called for a snap presidential election on April 3.

Friday's presidential decree will end Nursultan Nazarbayev's current term in office about 20 months before it was due to end.

Earlier, Nazarbayev rejected a plan to hold a referendum which was designed to allow him to rule unopposed for another decade.

Nazarbayev, 70, has ruled Kazakhstan for two decades and is almost certain to win the snap election he called.

Analysts say the opposition, which was caught off guard by the announcement, would simply not have enough time to prepare for the polls.

The United States, which warned in December that skipping elections through a referendum would be a "setback for democracy", promptly hailed Nazarbayev's decision to hold an early election.

The OSCE, Europe's main security and rights body, welcomed Nazarbayev's decision to hold a snap election, saying that Kazakhstan had promised to hold "democratic elections at reasonable intervals" at a recent OSCE summit in Astana.

But critics say that Nazarbayev's election call is largely designed to pacify the West.

Nazarbayev, known as 'Papa' to many Kazakhs, can run for an unlimited number of terms. Kazakhstan has never held an election judged free and fair by international observers.

By rejecting the "people's referendum initiative", Nazarbayev showed his resolve to secure firm Western backing and extend diplomatic gains achieved last year when Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet country to chair the OSCE.

Many foreign investors, who have poured more than $150bn into Kazakhstan during Nazarbayev's rule, rate the absence of a clear succession plan as the single biggest threat to political stability in the oil-rich country.

Nazarbayev, a former steelworker who has put in place bold market reforms, brooks no dissent, and the vast country of 16 million has no organised opposition movement.

Along with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who rose to power at the same time, Nazarbayev is the longest ruling ex-Soviet leader.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.