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Kazakhstan Takes Step Toward Vote

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan's parliament on Tuesday asked President Nursultan Nazarbayev to dissolve it and set a date for early elections -- a first step toward enforcing a set of reforms criticized by the opposition.

The reforms, proposed by Nazarbayev, are part of his plan to show the West his commitment to democracy and possibly allow more opposition politicians into the parliament. There is currently only one opposition deputy.

Although the proposal gives additional powers to the parliament, the wider package, parts of which have already been approved, angered the opposition as it also allows Nazarbayev to stay in office for life and makes it more difficult for small parties to get into parliament.

The parliament needs to be re-elected for the reforms to come into force. Regular elections had not been due until 2009.

(The Moscow Times 20.vi.07)

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