Referendum extending Nazarbayev’s powers ‘inevitable’ – lawmaker

January 14. RIA Novosti. ASTANA

Referendum extending Nazarbayev's powers 'inevitable' - lawmakerThe referendum extending the term of Kazakhstan’s long-serving leader Nursultan Nazarbayev up to 2020 is inevitable, said Kazakh lawmaker and ex-election chief Zagipa Baliyeva on Friday.

“Under the law on referendums, today there is nothing that could hamper holding this referendum,” said Baliyeva, who formerly headed the country’s Justice Ministry.

Kazakhstan’s parliament on Friday voted unanimously in favor of the referendum to extend the rule of Nazarbayev until 2020, bypassing the 2012 election. Washington earlier condemned the plans saying that it would be “a setback for democracy.”

This decision was backed by 44 out of 44 senators and 106 out of 106 deputies of the lower house of parliament.

The move means that Nazarbayev’s 20-year rule will be extended by another decade and makes it impossible for the country’s leader to veto the legislation according to Kazakh law.

However, last week Nazarbayev turned down the parliamentary initiative to amend the republic’s constitution so as to extend his term to 2020.

The president’s political advisor Yermukhamet Yertysbayev said Nazarbayev was ready to go to the polls and had no intentions of holding the controversial referendum.

“I am very upset that the parliament forced the president to hold the referendum because I know Nazarbayev’s position, we spoke with him on this issue: he wanted to go to the polls,” he said after the parliament session.

He also said the initiative group of citizens collected more than 5 million signatures in support of the referendum within a short period of time and “proved to the whole world that the president has overwhelming support.”

Speaking on the parliament’s vote on Friday, Yertysbayev said: “If the parliament had taken the decision ‘against’ it, it would have acted against the people.”

The referendum is expected to take place between January 17 and March 17.

Earlier this week, several activists were detained by police in Almaty as they attempted to stage a “Burial of Democracy” protest against the decision to hold the referendum. The event was held in front of the offices of the pro-presidential Nur-Otan party.