Nursultan Nazarbayev, First Elected in 1991, Announces Resignation as President of Kazakhstan

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev says he will leave his post after nearly 30 years in office. He’s seen here at the Akkorda Palace in Astana, Kazakhstan, in 2016.
Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev says he will resign the post he has held for nearly 30 years, abruptly announcing the end of an era that began in 1990. But Nazarbayev, 78, also said he’ll keep several key official posts, in a speech that aired on national TV Tuesday.

In the former Soviet bloc, formerly comprised of 15 countries, Nazarbayev is the only long-standing leader to sustain power for three decades. The president of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov died in 2016 after his presidential reign of 26 years.

Despite resigning the presidency, Nazarbayev will maintain control of the ruling Nur Otan Party. He’ll also remain a member of powerful government councils.

“In accordance with our laws, I’m given a status of the first president – the nation’s leader (El basy in Kazakh), I will remain the Security Council’s chairman, who has serious powers to determine the country’s domestic and foreign policy in line with the laws,” Nazarbayev said, in a translation by Russia’s Tass news agency.

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

In late January, Nazarbayev asked Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Council to clarify Section 3 of Article 42 of the Constitution, laying out a path for his early resignation.

On Feb. 21, Nazarbayev dismissed the entire Cabinet and reassembled it, amid a rising criticism of state officials that have been proven unable “to listen to listen to people’s problems,” according to Eurasianet. “No systematic work was done. The real incomes of the population have not increased. Spending on food as a share of the family budget is growing,” Nazarbayev said at the time.

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SOURCE: NPR, Bill Chappell and Dariya Tsyrenzhapova