nazcastsKazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev dissolved the lower house of parliament Wednesday and called a snap election, urging the nation to consolidate at a time of economic hardship caused by the crash in oil prices.

The vote, originally expected at the end of this year or early 2017, will be held March 20, according to a Twitter message posted by Nazarbayev's press service.

Nazarbayev's move was widely expected after the lower house unanimously voted this month to request its own dissolution.

Political analysts said the early poll would allow the veteran leader to reaffirm his grip on power before discontent over a slowing economy reached a peak.

"Our people, as always, need to unite and rebuff, by means of lawmaking if needed, any potential provocations at this hard time. And [also rebuff] those who try to politicize and seek culprits for the situation worsening," Nazarbayev's office quoted him as saying in a statement.

Nazarbayev has no opponents in the 107-seat lower house, which is dominated by his Nur Otan party and routinely approves bills drafted by the government.

Kazakhstan has never held an election that Western observers judged to be free and fair. Nazarbayev himself, in power since 1989, was re-elected for another five-year term last April.

Reuters, January 20, 2016