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Kazakh President Nazarbayev resigns after 3 decades in power

Kazakh President Nazarbayev resigns after 3 decades in power

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced on March 19 that after 29 years as president, he is resigning.

"I have chose to end my duties as president", Nazarbayev said, before signing a decree terminating his powers from March 30.

With the death of autocratic Uzbek President Islam Karimov in 2016, Nazarbaev became the only leader of a former Soviet republic to have held power since before the U.S.S.R. fell apart in 1991.

"In accordance with our laws, I'm given a status of the first president - the nation's leader (elbasy 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 his televised address to the nation.

According to the Kremlin, on Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with the Kazakh president by telephone, however, Russia's press secretary Dmitry Peskov did not share the two world leaders discussed.

Still, Kazakhstan remained relatively off the radar for most of the West until, that is, Sacha Baron Cohen's infamous portrayal of Borat Sagdiyev, a fictional "Kazakh" journalist on a state mission in the US.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev says he will leave his post after almost 30 years in office.

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In those days, Kazakhstan was a backwater region best known for prisons, nuclear testing sites and being the home of the launch facility of the Soviet space program, the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

"We expect Tokayev to be an interim figure", said Camilla Hagelund, an analyst at consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft.

"This year I will have held the highest post for 30 years", said Nazarbaev, 78, who has headed the energy-rich country since before the Soviet collapse of 1991. "I have made a hard decision - to retire from the responsibility of the President of Kazakhstan Republic". He has served twice as prime minister and also worked as the president's chief of staff.

Nazarbayev added that he would retain the position of the chairman of the nation's Security Council and the head of the ruling party.

In Kazakhstan's most recent presidential election, in 2015, Nazarbayev ran essentially unopposed and reportedly captured 97.75 percent of the vote.

He has maintained a delicate balance between Russian Federation and the West, leading Kazakhstan to join a Russia-dominated economic alliance of ex-Soviet nations, but cultivating close energy ties and other links with the West.

But the conduct of every election was criticised by foreign observers. He has also been accused of instilling widespread corruption, silencing dissent, and human rights abuses.