The President of Kazakhstan has called an early election after moves to prolong his rule unopposed failed.
Last week Nursultan Nazarbayev told parliament that he would stand at the next scheduled election in 2012. This latest announcement on state television made no mention of a date.
Parliament and a big public petition called for a referendum to extend Nazarbayev’s reign into a third decade.
Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Council rejected the referendum saying it would not comply with the constitution. Nazarbayev himself also opposed the vote.
The 70-year-old is the only president Kazakhs have ever known, having led the country since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Kazakhstan is rich in minerals and energy, attracting more than 100-billion euros-worth of foreign investment.
Nazarbayev can stand for re-election as many times as he likes, and many observers believe he is extremely likely to win again.