Kazakhstan’s leader-for-life Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation as president, signalling the start of a long-forecast transfer of power after nearly three decades as ruler of central Asia’s largest energy producer.
“I’ve taken the difficult decision to terminate my powers as president” as of March 20, Nazarbayev said in a televised address on Tuesday.
He announced that Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev would succeed him until elections scheduled for 2020. Nazarbayev, 78, said he would retain the key positions of head of Kazakhstan’s security council, chief of the ruling Nur Otan party and member of the Constitutional Council.
“I will be with you to serve until the end of my days,” he said. “I see my future task in ensuring a new generation of leaders.”
Nazarbayev retains the status of leader of the nation awarded by lawmakers in 2010. By stepping down a year before the end of his fifth term in office, he sought to avoid a potentially destabilising contest for power among rival possible successors in an
energy- and mineral-rich country sandwiched between Russia and China.
The last Soviet-era leader in the region, Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989 and has been its only president since it became independent in 1991.
Lawmakers made him head of the Kazakh security council for life last year with powers to issue executive orders to state bodies.