Article: Kazakhstan's Changing Political Scene

Nazarbayev Steps Down

Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev (L) and Deputy Chairman of the National Security Committee Samat Abish attend an awarding ceremony in Astana, Kazakhstan May 6, 2014. Picture taken May 6, 2014. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

Mar. 20, 2019

by Babak Babali

Nursultan Nazarbayev steps down as President of Kazakhstan after a political career spanning 29 years.

This week longstanding Kazakhstani leader Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned from the presidency.

On March 19 Nazarbayev held a televised speech after which he signed a decree putting an end to his time in office.

Though he did not cite a major reason for the stepdown, he said that the decision had been a difficult one for him.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is 78, had been in power for the better part of three decades, during which time he was reelected five times in a row.

The Central Asian country of Kazakhstan is famous for its vastness and geopolitical importance, notable hydrocarbon reserves, as well as the Baikonur Cosmodrome and its role in the Soviet Union's space program.

Despite the resignation, Nazarbayev will still hold some sway over the country and how it is run, as he will retain his position as head of Kazakhstan's ruling party, among other responsibilities.

This should allow for a degree of continuity in policy and political decision-making in the Central Asian nation.

The vacancy, however, was filled rapidly. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a veteran politician and former prime minister, was sworn in hours after the televised resignation to serve as acting president until the next election. No snap election is on the horizon at this stage.

The inauguration was also attended by Nursultan Nazarbayev who, upon making an entrance, received a hearty welcome from other dignitaries in attendance.

Evidently, Nazarbayev will continue to play an important role during the transition period and remain a figure to be reckoned with in the country's political development.

Speculation is rife regarding the potential causes and ramifications of this historic resignation, with some analysts going as far as to predict the retirement of other aging post-Soviet leaders in the coming years.