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Kazakhstan's president to be given green light to rule for a third decade

Kazakhstan's long-standing president looks set to be spared the hassle of elections, as parliament voted yesterday to hold areferendum that would keep him at the helm until 2020.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has run the resource-rich Central Asian state since 1990, has already been given specialdispensation to ignore the constitutional limit of two consecutivepresidential terms.

Additionally, last year parliamentarians gave him the title "Leader of the Nation", which gives him the right to have a say in policy even after he retires, and lifelong immunity fromprosecution. It also made insulting the president a criminal offence punishable by up to a year in prison.

The referendum seems designed to ease the conundrum of who will succeed Mr Nazarbayev, 70. At one point, he was said to be grooming his daughter Dariga to succeed him, but this option appears to have been discarded.