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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakh Parliament Dissolved for Early Elections

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev dissolved parliament on Wednesday and called early elections on Aug. 18. to speed the passage of political reforms.

The new, enlarged lower chamber will have additional powers in picking the prime minister, but the wider reform package, most of which has already been signed into law by Nazarbayev, lifts any limit on his own term in office.

He has praised the package as a step toward democracy, but the opposition says it is likely to increase his control. Without the dissolution, Nazarbayev's reforms would have had to wait until after parliamentary elections in 2009.

In a speech to members of his Nur-Otan party, which holds a majority in the parliament, Nazarbayev, 66, made clear he expected the ruling party to win the election. "Constitutional reforms will significantly push us toward creating a democratic, free and lawful society," Nazarbayev said in a speech interrupted by applause.

"We should all work for this party, which will for many years lead the state, the country and politics into the future. I'm saying it openly and I am not hiding this," he said.

The amendments also raise the number of deputies to 107 from 77 and require all seats be filled from party lists.

In his speech, Nazarbayev said party lists would be drawn up from June 22 to July 11.