Kazakhstan: President Nazarbayev abruptly resigns but will retain key roles

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev speaking on October 5 (akorda.kz)

ASTANA (TCA) — Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has abruptly resigned after nearly 30 years in office, but will continue to head the ruling party and keep his lifetime post as chairman of the influential Security Council, RFE/RL reports.

“I have decided to end my duties as president,” Nazarbayev said in a televised address to the nation on March 19, speaking hours after his office said that he would make an important announcement.

“This year I will have held the highest post for 30 years,” said Nazarbayev, 78, who has headed the energy-rich country since before the Soviet collapse of 1991. “The people gave me the opportunity to be the first president of an independent Kazakhstan.”

He said that that the speaker of the upper parliament chamber, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, will hold presidential authority for now. The next presidential election is due to be held in 2020.

Even as he resigned, Nazarbayev pointed out that he has been granted the status of “elbasy,” or leader of the nation, a title bestowed upon him by the loyal parliament in 2010.

“I remain chairman of the Security Council, which has been granted serious authority,” he said, adding that he is also staying on as chairman of the Nur-Otan party and as a member of the Constitutional Council.

“So I am staying with you,” Nazarbayev said. “The concerns of the country and the people remain my concerns.”

The roles he is keeping could allow Nazarbayev to retain a great deal of power.

In July 2018, the Security Council’s status was changed from consultative to constitutional, increasing its authority, and Nazarbayev became its chairman for life.

Many in Kazakhstan saw those changes as a sign that Nazarbayev was seeking to ensure that he would maintain his grip on power if he stepped down as president.

Among other things, the Security Council is responsible for “organizing control over the implementation of laws” on national security and defense.

Nazarbayev was last elected in 2015, securing a five-year term after moving the date of the vote up from 2016 in a move was widely seen as an attempt to strengthen his grip on power.

The “leader of the nation” status handed to Nazarbayev in 2010 granted him and his family lifelong immunity from criminal and civil prosecution.

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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