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Mr Nazarbayev came to power in 1989 as first secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has led the country since independence from the Soviet Union, has announced his resignation.
In a televised address, he said the decision had “not been simple” but gave no reason for the move.
Mr Nazarbayev, 78, has been largely unchallenged since he became leader of the oil-rich nation in 1989.
He has focused on economic reform while resisting moves to democratise the political system.
“I have decided to give up my powers as president,” he said during the surprise address.
Mr Nazarbayev said the speaker of the upper house of parliament, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, would take over as acting president for the remainder of his term which expires in March 2020.
He had been widely expected to seek re-election and has never indicated a successor.
Last May, Mr Nazarbayev became lifelong head of Kazakhstan’s influential security council.
He will remain in this role and continue as head of the ruling Nur Otan party. He will also hold the formal title Leader of the Nation.
The announcement comes just weeks after the leader sacked the country’s government, citing failures to improve the economy.
“In many areas of the economy, despite the adoption of many laws and government decisions, positive changes have not been achieved,” he said in a statement at the time.
A surprise announcement
In the past few months and even years, there has been speculation about Mr Nazarbayev’s imminent resignation.
These rumours reached a new level recently when he formally requested the Constitutional Court to clarify the process of a presidential resignation. The court confirmed that the president had a right to resign.
However, his announcement today still caught many by surprise.
Mr Nazarbayev is the only president independent Kazakhstan has known. Many regarded him as a president for life, a common practice for authoritarian states in Central Asia.
He enjoyed great popularity, although it was never possible to independently measure it due to the lack of free and fair elections. Yet, because of the economic crisis, he has faced growing discontent from some of the population.
Born in 1940, Mr Nazarbayev came to power as first secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan in 1989 when it was a Soviet republic.
After independence, he was re-elected against largely token opponents in 1999, 2005, 2011 and – most recently – in 2015.
But the conduct of every election was criticised by foreign observers.
Critics have accused Mr Nazarbayev of corruption and widespread human rights abuses, as well as fostering a personality cult.
His supporters say he preserved inter-ethnic peace and stability during the reform in the 1990s, and credit him for the country’s impressive economic growth in first decade of the new millennium.
Kazakhstan is as large as Western Europe and has vast mineral resources.
Since independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, major investment in the oil sector has brought rapid growth.
The country is ethnically diverse. The Kazakhs make up nearly two-thirds of the population, ethnic Russians just under a quarter, and smaller minorities the rest. Its main religion, Islam, is also undergoing a revival.Source: BBC
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