Published: Tue, March 19, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Kazakhstan's leader Nazarbayev resigns after three decades in power

Kazakhstan's leader Nazarbayev resigns after three decades in power

Nazarbayev was the last leader of a post-Soviet state who had been heading his country since the Soviet era.

As per Kazakhstan's constitution - and arguably Nazarbayev's personal choice - the speaker of the senate, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, will act as head of state until new elections.

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev unexpectedly resigned on Tuesday after three decades in power, in what appeared to be the first step in a choreographed political transition that will see him retain considerable sway.

The 78-year-old said in a televised address to the oil-rich nation that he has taken the "difficult" decision to terminate his authority as president, effective on Wednesday.

With the death of autocratic Uzbek President Islam Karimov in 2016, Nazarbaev became the only leader of a former Soviet republic to have held power since before the U.S.S.R. fell apart in 1991.

His resignation followed unusually persistent protests in which demonstrators in several cities across the country of some 18.7 million have accused the government of ignoring the needs and demands of ordinary people.

Nazarbayev has no apparent long-term successor.

The Kremlin said Nazarbayev and Putin had spoken by phone earlier on Tuesday, but declined to disclose the content of their conversation.

Marching for the future
John's, in cities and towns in every province, students are joining the global student strike for the climate on March 15. In Australia, Education Minister Dan Tehan questioned whether the protests truly represented a grassroots movement.

Nazarbayev enjoys a strong working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a pre-recorded television address, he said the decision had "not been simple". "This doesn't really give us a headache".

Despite resigning the presidency, Nazarbaev will maintain control of the ruling Nur Otan Party. In the 2015 election, he took almost 98 percent of the vote.

Nazarbayev has been serving as president of Kazakhstan for 28 years, since the office was created on 24 April 1990.

But the conduct of every election was criticised by foreign observers.

Nazarbayev has been widely hailed for maintaining stability and ethnic peace in Kazakhstan but has faced criticism over allegations of suppressing dissent and sidelining the opposition.

In recent months Nazarbayev's government pushed through a number of popular policies - including raising public-sector salaries and forcing utilities to cut and freeze tariffs - stoking speculation that he was preparing for a re-election bid.

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