Page last updated at 14:08 GMT, Wednesday, 12 May 2010 15:08 UK

Kazakhstan bill boosts power of President Nazarbayev

By Rayhan Demytrie
BBC Central Asia correspondent

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev
Mr Nazarbayev can run for office as many times as he chooses

Deputies in Kazakhstan have approved a bill granting more powers to the country's president by titling him the "leader of the nation".

The bill will give President Nursultan Nazarbayev immunity from prosecution.

It follows a popular uprising in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan that ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Mr Bakiyev, now in Belarus, is wanted by Kyrgyz interim administration for his handling of the uprising in which more than 80 people were killed.

Analysts say other leaders in Central Asia want to prevent the same thing happening to them.

The leader of the nation bill was approved unanimously by deputies in Kazakhstan's lower house of parliament. As its title suggests, it gives the country's president special status.

No charges

He has been ruling the country since 1989 and has the right to stand for presidency as many times as he likes.

But the legislation means he can no longer face criminal charges for acts carried out while in office.

The bill also aims to protect property owned by Mr Nazarbayev and his family, and makes it illegal to deface images of the president.

It still has to be approved by the upper house of the Kazakh parliament, and signed by the president before it becomes law.

Analysts say that the timing of the bill suggests that Central Asia's authoritarian leaders are worried by the recent events in Kyrgyzstan, where a popular uprising in early April overthrew Mr Bakiyev.

He fled to Belarus but now the new interim government wants him extradited and has launched a number of criminal cases against the former president and his family members.

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