Kazakhstan ruling party calls for early presidential vote

Astana (Kazakhstan) (AFP) - Kazakhstan's ruling Nur Otan party on Monday called for early presidential polls in a move that will almost certainly see President Nursultan Nazarbayev re-elected for another five-year term in the former Soviet republic.

The 74-year-old president has one year of his current term remaining. He is unlikely to face any serious opposition in the energy-rich Central Asian country, even though its economy is reeling from low oil prices and the weak Russian ruble.

Nazarbayev has led the Central Asian country since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and was given the lifelong title of Leader of the Nation in 2010.

The ruling party's first deputy chairman, Bauirzhan Baibek, said the call for snap elections was on the request of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, a consultative body that represents the main ethnic groups.

Holding snap elections is "the most correct decision, which meets the interests of the country and the people," Baibek told journalists.

Nazarbayev gave a lengthy address to the government on Kazakhstan's deteriorating economy last week, in which he acknowledged there would be "difficulties" in the short term for a country heavily dependent on oil prices and trade with crisis-hit Russia.

Nevertheless, he ruled out a repeat of the overnight 19 percent devaluation of the country's tenge currency, which occurred a year ago.

On Saturday, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, citing numerous appeals by ordinary citizens, passed a resolution to recommend early elections in light of the country's economic woes.

"During this difficult time, we ask all citizens to rally around the Leader of the Nation. It is important through early presidential elections, to strengthen economic growth, and ensure the continuity of policies," the resolution read.

Nur Otan, the party that Nazarbayev founded and chairs, controls 83 of 107 seats in the Kazakh parliament after taking more than 80 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections three years ago.