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Voters in Kazakhstan overwhelmingly approve constitutional amendments

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev cast his ballot at a polling station in the Al-Farabi Schoolchildren Palace.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev cast his ballot at a polling station in the Al-Farabi Schoolchildren Palace.   -   Copyright  Kazakhstan's Presidential Press Service via AP

Citizens in Kazakhstan have overwhelmingly voted in favour of constitutional changes to limit the grip of its former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev.

According to official results, 77 per cent of voters backed the proposals of current President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The turnout for the referendum was over 68%.

Sunday's referendum was seen as an attempt to repudiate the legacy of former strongman Nazarbayev, who led the former Soviet republic for three decades.

Tokayev had called the referendum after violent demonstrations in January left more than 230 people dead.

The unrest escalated from peaceful protests against rising fuel prices into the deadliest clashes in the country since it gained independence in 1991.

Tokayev had been widely seen as a henchman of Nazarbayev, who resigned in 2019 but continued to influence Kazakh politics.

The riots prompted the 69-year-old President to try and curb the influence of his predecessor and oust some of his close associates.

On Sunday, citizens voted to amend around one-third of Kazakhstan's basic laws, including a provision that declared Nazarbayev the "Head of the Nation".

Tokayev said that voters had abolished the "super-presidential" rule of Nazarbayev, where the former leader's rich family could hold major government positions.

Both Nazarbayev and Tokayev have advocated close ties with neighbouring Russia.