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Kazakh Parliament Backs Vote to Extend Leader's Rule

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev at a news conference after a meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels, Oct. 26, 2010.

Kazakhstan's parliament has backed a call for a referendum to extend the rule of patriarchal President Nursultan Nazarbayev to 2020.

Members of the lower house of parliament announced the initiative Wednesday, which could allow the popular president to skip elections scheduled for 2012.

The president's office has not yet commented on the move.

The 70-year old leader has ruled the former Soviet state for the past 20 years. His support in the lower house of parliament is practically guaranteed. The chamber is completely dominated by the ruling party, with not a single seat held by the opposition.

Critics complain about a lack of democracy under Mr. Nazarbayev's rule. His supporters praise him for bolstering Kazakhstan's economy with investments in energy development.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.