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Pieces shuffle as longtime Kazakh leader Nazarbayev resigns

media Former president Nursultan Nazarbayev at the swearing-in ceremony of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev yesterday in Astana. Kazakh Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

Changes are already taking place across the central Asian country of Kazakhstan, a day after longtime president Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation.

Tuesday's surprise announcement saw the departure of Nazarbayev who has ruled Kazakhstan since before the fall of the Soviet Union.

In less than 24 hours since his resignation, changes have already begun to take place.

Nazarbayev named 65-year-old Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as the man who would take over the remainder of his mandate until presidential elections, due to be held in March 2020.

Tokayev was officially sworn in on Wednesday as the new interim president.

During the ceremony, the incoming leader asked that parliament honour the former president by renaming the capital Astana to Nursultan, his first name, which means ‘Sultan of Light’.

The parliament passed the change within hours.

Later, the Kazakh Senate voted to appoint Nazarbayev's eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, as the new speaker of parliament.

Figurative head

In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday, the former president lamented having made a “difficult decision to resign as president of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” after nearly 30 years.

But he added that he sees his future task “as ensuring the coming to power of a new generation of leaders who will continue the transformations being carried out in the country.”

The 78-year-old former president will not vanish from the political scene.

He will continue to enjoy powers thanks to his constitutional status as “Leader of the Nation” and lifelong position as chief of the country’s security council.

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