NUR-SULTAN -- The former president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev, has decided to give up the leadership of the ruling Nur-Otan party, a move that strengthens the position of the current president, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev.
A spokesman for the 81-year-old Nazarbaev, who continues to influence political decisions in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic as the lifetime chairman of the powerful Security Council, announced the ex-president's decision on November 23.
'At the extended session of [Nur-Otan's] political council, Nursultan Nazarbaev decided to give up his duties of the chairman of the Nur-Otan party, emphasizing that the party must be led by the country's president. The process of the [chairmanship's] transfer will be carried out according to the party's charter,' spokesman Aidos Ukibai wrote on Twitter.
Nazarbaev ruled the oil-rich Central Asian state with an iron fist from before independence in 1991 until he suddenly announced he was stepping down in March 2019. Toqaev was his handpicked successor.
Nazarbaev continues to wield considerable influence and enjoys almost limitless powers as 'elbasy,' or leader of the nation.
Under Toqaev, Kazakhstan continues to clamp down on freedom of speech and harass opposition members.
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036