Lawmakers in Kazakhstan have voted to allow President Nursultan Nazarbayev to stay in office for an unlimited number of terms.

Both the upper and lower houses of parliament Friday voted overwhelmingly in favor of amending the constitution to let Mr. Nazarbayev remain president as long as he chooses.

The proposed amendment is an exception only for Mr. Nazarbayev. Future leaders will be limited to no more than two consecutive terms.

Lawmakers also passed an amendment requested earlier this week by President Nazarbayev to reduce the presidential term from the current seven years to five years. It would go into effect after the president's current mandate expires in 2012.

The legislation now goes to the president for his approval.

Mr. Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, and he led the country to independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union broke up.

Kazakhstan has been criticized internationally for a lack of democracy and economic transparency.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.