(AFP) – Jun 6, 2008
ATYRAU, Kazakhstan (AFP) — Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Friday rejected the idea that the capital Astana be renamed after him, following a parliamentary proposal put forth to this effect.
"I am not partisan to changing the name of Astana, especially if it concerns my name," Nazarbayev told media in the western city of Atyrau.
The president said he would not be signing any name-changing legislation into effect, but did not oppose the idea that the capital one day be named in honour of him.
"The decision to change the name will be made by another generation," said Nazarbayev.
A senior member of the Kazakh parliament on Wednesday called for the capital to be renamed after the leader.
"Considering the enormous role of our president in the construction of Kazakhstan, of the city of Astana, I propose the city be renamed Nursultan," General Sat Tokpakbayev told the lower house, the Majilis.
Tokpakbayev said the plan was supported by 70 percent of deputies.
Amid a rising tide of oil wealth, Nazarbayez transformed Astana from a once dusty town in the Kazakh steppe into a garish high-rise cityscape and in 1997 moved the capital there.
Astana has since seen its population triple to 700,000.
Nazarbayez, who has been leader of this former Soviet republic since 1989, also announced on Friday he had no intention of stepping down any time soon.
"I am not getting ready to leave. And I am counting on working as long as the people trust in me and my health allows it," he said, adding that he had no "heir".
Since the central Asian nation became independent in 1991, the 67-year-old leader has held onto his position by means of referendums and elections not recognised as democratic by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Nazarbayez was re-elected in December 2005, garnering 91 percent of votes in a country where for the last year there has not been one opposition member in parliament.
Despite this record, Kazakhstan managed to obtain the OSCE presidency for 2010 -- a role that also requires overseeing human rights among its 56 member states.
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