The last reigning Soviet-era president has resigned. After 30 years at the helm of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, 78, announced his resignation Tuesday, but he will remain chairman of the Central Asian country’s security council.
He will also remain chairman of the ruling Nur Otan party.
“I stay with you,” he said in his televised address. “The cares of the country and the people remain my concerns.”
He said the decision to step down was “difficult” and that he was “honored by my people to become the first president of independent Kazakhstan.”
However, he said he will stay on in order to help shape the future of his country and its leaders.
“As the founder of an independent Kazakhstani state, I see my future task in ensuring the coming to power of a new generation of leaders who will continue the transformations being carried out in the country,” he said.
Nazarbayev, who was elected five times, said parliament speaker Kasym-Zhomart Kemeluly Tokayev, 65, will become interim president.
He will be sworn in on March 20 at the joint parliament session and will serve as president until the 2020 presidential election.
Nazarbayev’s resignation comes weeks after he fired the government for failing to improve living standards.
He said there was an insufficient number of productive jobs, especially in the country, and small and medium business had not become an economic growth driver, adding that raising income and the quality of life should have been the main priorities of each government member.
“Under these conditions, I, as president and guarantor of the Constitution, taking into account the interests of our people, make the following decision,” he said. “I believe that the government should resign.”
The dismissal and has been largely seen as a reaction to persistent nationwide protests, accusing the government of ignoring its citizens’ needs.
Nazarbayev had led the oil-rich country since 1989 while it was still a member of the Soviet Union as the country’s Communist party head. He was then elected as Kazakhstan’s first president in 1991. In 2015, his fifth election victory, Nazarbayev received nearly 98 percent of the vote.