The United States condemned on Tuesday Kazakhstan's plans to extend its veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev's rule until 2020, bypassing a 2012 election, and said the move would be a setback for democracy.
"We believe a national referendum that would replace the presidential elections guaranteed by Kazakhstan's constitution would be a setback for democracy in Kazakhstan," the U.S. government said in a statement.
"We think that it is important that Kazakhstan's government and citizens honor their international commitments and continue to strive for free and fair elections," it added in a statement published by the U.S. embassy in Kazakhstan.
Nazarbayev's administration could not be immediately reached for comment.
Kazakhstan's compliant parliament appealed to Nazarbayev last week to call a referendum that would extend his more than 20-year rule by almost another decade, until 2020.
The appeal was made shortly after a "people's initiative" began collecting signatures to hold such a referendum.
Supporters and opponents expect the referendum could be held as soon as March.
The 70-year-old leader must approve the call to hold the referendum, which would allow him to avoid an election that would have been due in 2012.
ReutersLast Mod: 04 Ocak 2011, 15:28