( RIA Novosti ) - Kazakh lawmakers asked longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev Monday to dissolve parliament and call early elections.
"We are requesting that a difficult, but historically important decision is made to dissolve the Majlis [lower house of parliament] and call early parliamentary elections," lawmakers said in a statement. "This decision will speed up the pace of reforms in the country."
"The current Majlis should not slow down reform," lawmakers said.
Nazarbayev, who has ruled the energy-rich Central Asian state for 17 years, recently proposed a series of constitutional amendments, which he said were designed to transform the country from a presidential republic into a presidential-parliamentary one, by cutting the presidential term from seven to five years after 2012, and giving more power to the legislature.
Simultaneously, parliament, dominated by pro-presidential parties, approved the Nazarbayev-proposed amendment removing term limits for the incumbent leader, whose tenure expires in 2012.
The opposition say the changes would only tighten the president's grip on the legislature and were mainly designed to improve the country's image on the international stage given its aspirations to preside in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Western bodies have criticized the leader of the ex-Soviet state for a totalitarian rule, resisting democratic reform and silencing the opposition.