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Kazakhstan converts capital into honor ex-leader | News



Kazakhstan has renamed its capital, Nur-Sultan, in honor of its long-standing president, who resigned in a surprise movement earlier this week.

The order to change the city's name from Astana was issued on Saturday by Kazakhstan's neighbors-in mid-president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Tokayev originally proposed the new name on Wednesday as a tribute to Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the country for decades until he resigned on Tuesday.

"The opinion of [Nazarbayev] will be special, one can prioritize, important in the development and adoption of strategic decisions," Tokayev said at that time.

Small protests took place in Almaty and other cities after the name change were proposed.

Astana replaced Almaty as capital in 1

997 and boomed from a small provincial steppe to a futuristic city.

The name Astana literally means "capital" in Kazakhstan, and there has long been speculation that it could at some point be renamed after the leader who formed it.

Nazarbayev was in the helm of the country for almost 30 years, only when it was still part of the Soviet Union and then as the first president of an independent Kazakhstan.

His announcement on Tuesday surprised many, including analysts, who had expected Nazarbayev to be a president of life, as has been the case with leaders in other Central Asian countries.

But some noted that 78-year-old Nazarbayev, who Tokayev praised "an excellent reformer", would retain key powers as chairman of the Security Council and head of the ruling Nur Otan party.

Nazarbayev's decades-long rule transformed Kazakhstan into a power plant, but he ruled with little tolerance for opposition.

His termination is not expected to fundamentally change Kazakh's authoritarian system, which rights groups say there is no room for political competition, civil society and free media.

Tokayev, a career diplomat who had been the Senate speaker, can earn the rest of Nazarbayev's term ahead of scheduled elections next year.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies


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