President Nursultan Nazarbayev, above, who ruled Kazakhstan for nearly three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, announced his shock resignation in a televised address on Tuesday.
Nazarbayev had dismissed the country’s government a few weeks ago amid falling oil prices, rising domestic discontent and mounting Western sanctions against Russia , Kazakhstan’s major trading partner.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, speaker of the upper house of parliament, will act as the caretaker president until the end of Nazarbayev’s term in March 2020.
Tokayev, 65, was a former prime minister and career diplomat. He is loyal to Nazarbayev.
Despite his resignation, Nazarbayev will have powers in decision making process since he enjoys the constitutional status as ‘leader of the nation’.
He will also continue to head Kazakhstan’s Security Council and lead the pro- Russia Nur Otan party.
Nazarbayev, 78, became leader of the Communist Party in Soviet-era Kazakhstan in 1989. A year later, he was elected president of a newly independent nation.
Since then, Nazarbayev has won election after election with such huge margin that doubts were raised about the poll process. He was also accused of promoting corruption, crushing dissent, and violating human rights.
Amid criticisms, Nazarbayev introduced reforms in 2010 to make Kazakhstan a multi-party state. Two years back, he proposed constitutional changes giving more powers to the legislature.
He earmarked more than $5 billion over the next three years to boost the salaries of state staff, increase aid to low-income households and improve power and gas supplies to rural areas.
Although absolute power has corrupted Nazarbayev over the years, he was able to draw billions of dollars in foreign investment to the country.
Nazarbayev was born to a peasant family and trained as an engineer before he entered politics.