Nazarbayev retires, long live Nazarbayev? ‘Leader of the Nation’ still in power

Nursultan Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan with a firm hand for 28 years, 10 months and 23 days. At the age of 78, the ‘Leader of the Nation’ decided to retire. But not entirely.

“I remain President of the Security Council, whom the law grants wide powers in determining domestic and foreign policy. I also remain the leader of the Nur Otan party and a member of the Constitutional Council,” he said on Tuesday.

Over the past three decades, Nazarbayev has muzzled independent media, brought political parties and the judicial system to heel, his relatives took dominant positions in the country’s economy. Nazarbayev and his cronies brutally quelled social and political protests.

“As Head of the Security Council, he keep a tight rein on both foreign and domestic policies. Even the new president, an ordinary member of the Security Council, will have to report on progress and plans to him. No decision will be taken without the consent of Head of the Security Council,” Igor Vinyavsky, a political commentator and expert on Kazakh issues, said.

Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev, Speaker of the upper house of parliament, a career diplomat and one of the few whom Nazarbayev really trusts, has been appointed Acting President. Will Kazakhstan become more democratic? We will see after the presidential elections scheduled for December.

“It is difficult to say what will happen in Kazakhstan under the rule of another president. But in any case, the system that was tooled for one person, i.e. well-honed vertical power structure, will be retooled for the new president,” Vinyavsky believes.

Nazarbayev’s retiring is the first and only example of the peaceful resignation of a former Soviet dictator. Other authoritarian rulers died or fleed. Will Belarus’ political long-liver resort to Nazarbayev’s ‘shadow president’ model?

Alyaksandr Lukashenka will be thoroughly weighing the ‘successor’ options. He is teetering between his sons Viktar and Mikalai,” political analyst Pavel Usau stressed.

“Both Lukashenka and Nazarbayev have such lust for power that cannot be satisfied. They want more and more – that is the feature they have in common. I do not know whether Lukashenka will arrive at some decision; he still seems to be craving for power,” Alyaksandr Dabravolski, a member of the political council of the United Civic Party, said.

Thousands of different comments by Internet users from post-Soviet countries came as a response to the landmark event in the history of present-day Kazakhstan. Interestingly, after the news made headlines, the retired president called to his counterpart in the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin‘s press service has not yet disclosed the details of their conversation.

Taking off shoes. Did Lukashenka insult Nazarbayev?

Alyaksandr Papko/MS,

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