World News

Kazakh leader seeks legal advice on end of term, hinting at snap election

FILE PHOTO: Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev speaks during his annual state-of-the-nation address at the Akorda presidential residence in Astana, Kazakhstan October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov/File Photo

ALMATY (Reuters) - Hinting at a possible snap election, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has sought an official legal interpretation of a constitutional clause defining the end of a presidential term, the country’s Constitutional Council said on Monday.

Nazarbayev, 78, who has run the former Soviet republic for three decades and has no apparent successor, was last re-elected in 2015, securing a five-year term with 97.7 percent of the vote.

But country-watchers say there are signs he might seek re-election in a snap poll this year. Nazarbayev’s government has, for example, taken several populist steps, such as raising public-sector salaries and forcing utilities to cut and freeze tariffs.

“Although we cannot say with certainty that an early election lies ahead, it is almost a certainty that the incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev will be re-elected to office,” Fitch Solutions said in a note last month said.

The brief Constitutional Council statement published on Friday did not explain what exactly Nazarbayev has asked it to clarify.

Article 42 of the constitution, whose interpretation he has requested, says a president’s term ends either when another elected president assumes office, or in the case of an incumbent leader’s “premature release from office, resignation or death”.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Larry King