Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev resigns amid mounting political crisis
David Levine and Clara Weiss
30 March 2019
In a sign of growing social and political turmoil in Central Asia, Kazakhstan’s 78-year-old president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been head of state of the country since its formation out of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, announced his immediate resignation on Tuesday, March 19. Kazakhstan is of enormous geostrategic and economic significance. It is the largest country in Central Asia and generates well over half of the region’s GDP.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who had been chairman of the Kazakhstan Senate, the upper house of parliament, was sworn in as president of Kazakhstan on March 20. He is to remain in office until new elections are held next year.
Nazarbayev was for decades a high-ranking functionary of the Stalinist bureaucracy and played a central role in the restoration of capitalism in Kazakhstan, which threw millions into poverty and impelled millions more to emigrate. Among the positions he held were president of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (1990–1991), secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan (1979–1984), deputy of the Soviet of the Union of the USSR (1979–1989) and first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan (1989–1991).
Nazarbayev’s authoritarian regime has been characterized by extreme social inequality, nepotism, corruption and the violent suppression of political and social opposition, involving a rigorous regime of political censorship, as well as a language policy discriminating against non-Kazakh people who previously comprised the majority of the country’s population. The Kazakh economy has grown significantly, especially since 2000, largely based on the…