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Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled Kazakhstan for over 30 years before stepping aside in 2019, has announced that he will retire from politics entirely after bloody unrest rocked the country’s establishment.
“I am enjoying my well-deserved retirement,” the 81-year-old said in a video message released on Tuesday.
Nazarbayev’s resignation paved the way for his confidant Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to assume power in the authoritarian state, which is rich in oil and gas. Nazarbayev did however retain extensive powers.
Over the course of mass protests a fortnight ago, Tokayev dismissed his predecessor as head of the powerful Security Council and declared himself chairman.
There was also speculation that Nazarbayev had left the country. “I haven’t gone anywhere,” he said in his speech, filmed sitting at a table with Kazakh state flags in the background.
He has been staying in Nur-Sultan, he said. The capital city, formerly known as Astana, was renamed in his honour after he resigned.
Tokayev has also dismissed several of Nazarbayev’s confidants and family members from important positions in recent weeks.
But the former head of state denied any conflicts or tensions within the nation’s ruling elite.
“The rumours on this issue have no basis,” he said, adding that President Tokayev had full authority.
Tokayev is now also set to head of the ruling party Nur Otan.
In his speech, Nazarbayev also talked up reforms promised by his successor.
Following many years of stability, mass protests kicked off in Kazakhstan at the beginning of the month after the price of fuel doubled. The demonstrations turned violent within a few days.
Tokayev described the unrest as an attack by “terrorist gangs.”
Across the country, 225 people were killed, according to official figures. More than 10,000 were arrested.
Nazarbayev became president of Kazakhstan on April 24, 1990, although he had already been in power before then as communist party leader.
The politician, who cultivated a strong cult of personality, was repeatedly criticized for placing family members in influential positions.
During the protests, people were seen tearing down a monument to Nazarbayev in the city of Taldykorgan.
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