Kazakh president dismisses talk of 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) - Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Tuesday dismissed reports that he was planning a snap election after he sought clarification on a clause in the constitution covering the length of his term.

In a video address published online, Nazarbayev said his request to the Constitutional Court on Monday had been a routine one meant to clarify gaps in sections covering the replacement of a president, an incumbent’s resignation and other areas.

“Of course, everyone is interested... in the elections, (political) transition,” he said.

“Yes, the president has the right to call an early election, but this is not something we should be worried about, so let us calm down and work as usual,” he added.

Nazarbayev, 78, has run the oil-rich Central Asian nation for three decades and has no apparent successor. He won 97.7 percent of the vote in his last vote in 2015.

Kazakhstan is scheduled to hold both presidential and parliamentary elections next year, and some commentators had suggested authorities might bring one of the votes forward to avoid a clash.

Nazarbayev’s government has also pushed through a number of popular policies in recent months - including raising public-sector salaries and forcing utilities to cut and freeze tariffs - stoking speculation that he was preparing for a vote.

Nazarbayev, the only Soviet-era leader still in charge of his country, made no mention of the parliamentary election in his brief address on Tuesday. His Nur Otan party dominates the two-chamber legislature.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Heavens