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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nazarbayev Proposes Reforms

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed limited political reforms Wednesday, including shortening the presidential term from seven years to five and strengthening parliament's powers.

"We want to underline the firmness of our democratic aspirations," Nazarbayev told the parliament in televised remarks, proposing a set of constitutional changes.

Nazarbayev, who has resisted democratic reforms during his 17-year rule and was re-elected with 91 percent of the vote in a 2005 election that international observers called flawed, is barred by the Kazakh Constitution from seeking a new term in 2012. He proposed introducing five-year presidential terms after 2012, which would allow him to serve his current term.

Nazarbayev also proposed increasing the number of seats in the bicameral parliament from 116 to 154, with 98 to be filled by voting for political parties rather than individual candidates. Currently only 10 seats are chosen on a party basis.

The proposals come ahead of a vote later this year by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on the nation's bid to chair the Vienna-based security and democracy group in 2009. The proposals are seen as part of Nazarbayev's preparations for a power transfer in 2012. He suggested he was seeking to leave behind a more balanced political system in place of the existing system in which the president holds the vast majority of power.