Kazakhstan lawmakers approve unlimited terms for president



MOSCOW -- Kazakhstan President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev could remain in office for the rest of his life under a package of constitutional amendments approved by the parliament yesterday.

The measures, which need Nazarbayev's signature to take effect, would remove any limit on the number of terms he can serve. Under the current constitution, Nazarbayev, who has exercised authoritarian rule over the oil-rich Central Asian country since the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, would have to step down in 2012.

Critics charged that the vote was tantamount to making Nazarbayev, 66, president for life. Supporters said it was recognition of the key role he has played in building the country of 15 million.

"It is a huge step back for the nation," Aidos Sarimov, a political analyst at the Altynbek Sarsenbayev Foundation, an opposition-linked think tank in Almaty, said in a telephone interview.

Under terms of the package, Nazarbayev would be an exception, with future presidents limited to two five-year terms.

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