Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nazarbayev Set to Extend Term

ALMATY -- Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev seems assured of extending his mandate until the end of the century in a referendum Saturday which has been criticized as undemocratic by the West.

Nazarbayev says extending his tenure, which is due to expire at the end of 1996, is the best way to guarantee stability and protect reforms in vast, mineral-rich territory.

Opinion polls and the backing of five influential parties suggest the president is certain to win a huge endorsement to prolong his term until the year 2000.

But opinions were mixed among people interviewed on the streets of the capital Friday about Nazarbayev's decision to hold a referendum.

Teacher Maksut Orazayev said: "The constitution is not a harnessed horse that you can pull this way and that. I will vote for strict observance of the law."

Clara Tuseyeva, a Kazakh doctor, said: "He is the man who began reform in our country and we should extend his term so he can finish the job. Any democracy must have order and must have a leader."

A former Communist leader who has dominated politics here for more than a decade, Nazarbayev called the plebiscite in the midst of a constitutional crisis.

The voters will be asked: "Are you in agreement with extending the authority of the president, elected by the whole people, until December 2000?"

Nazarbayev aides say victory will give him a free hand to push through legislation on private land ownership and promotion of the Russian language.

Critics say he is flouting the constitution and acting in a dictatorial manner.