Kazakhstan: President cedes key powers to Leader of the Nation Nazarbayev

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has handed his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, more sweeping powers, according to a presidential decree published on October 21, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.

Tokayev, 66, became president after Nazarbayev’s surprise resignation in March. Nazarbayev, 79, spent almost three decades in power and is still considered Kazakhstan’s top decision-maker.

The decree, published on the state website of official legal acts, says Tokayev should consult Nazarbayev before appointing chiefs of state institutions and ministers except those holding the foreign, interior, and defense portfolios.

Among the institutions whose leadership now needs Nazarbayev’s approval is the powerful Committee for National Security (KNB), a successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

The same procedure will apply to provincial governors and other senior officials.

Tokayev was handpicked by Nazarbayev to be his successor, and became acting president in March after the longtime leader officially stepped down.

Tokayev was inaugurated as Kazakhstan’s new president in June after a weakly contested election that was marred by what international observers called “widespread voting irregularities.”

The October 21 move appears to further boost Nazarbayev’s powers. He is chairman of both the national Security Council and the ruling party that nominated Tokayev and also holds the title of “elbasy,” or Leader of the Nation.

Nazarbayev has appeared more often in public recently and blamed what he called “gossip” about disagreements with Tokayev on regime opponents in an interview on Kazakh state television this month.

But Nazarbayev said during the interview that he would not keep silent if the government made decisions he disagreed with.

Sergey Kwan

TCA