Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, on Wednesday called an early presidential election in the oil-producing Central Asian state on April 26.
The election is widely seen as intended to give him another five years at the helm of Central Asia's largest economy though he said in a televised address that he would decide later whether to run.
“In the interests of the people, taking into account their appeal to me and their united will ... I made a decision and signed a decree to call an early presidential election on April 26, 2015,” television channels showed Nazarbayev saying.
“I will make a decision regarding my participation in the future election later,” he added, seated in front of Kazakhstan's blue flag featuring the sun embraced by a flying golden eagle.
Nazarbayev's ruling Nur Otan party and parliament appealed to the veteran leader last week to secure a new five-year term early to consolidate the nation as it starts to experience economic difficulties.
The idea was first aired on February 14 by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, a constitutional body led by Nazarbayev, and the authorities quickly presented this as an “expression of the people's will” urging the president to rule on.
Nazarbayev, a 74-year-old former steelworker, has ruled his steppe nation of 17 million with a strong hand since 1989 when he became the head of the local Communist Party.