MOSCOW (AP) — Kazakhstan’s ruling party on Friday chose the country’s president as its new leader in a move that further reduces the influence of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who dominated the country’s politics for decades.
The election of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to lead the Nur-Otan party comes in the wake of violent demonstrations in January in which more than 220 people died and government buildings were set on fire.
Nazarbayev, who had led Kazakhstan since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, resigned as president in 2019 but retained enormous influence as head of both Nur-Otan and the country’s national security council.
Tokayev replaced him as security council head during the unrest, in which many demonstrators chanted “old man out,” referring to the 81-year-old former president. Nazarbayev in November had announced he would resign as the party’s head; Tokayev’s election to replace him took place at a party congress.
The demonstrations in early January began as protests against a sharp rise in prices for LPG fuel and quickly spread across the country, reflecting wider public discontent with steadily decreasing incomes, worsening living conditions and the authoritarian government.
Tokayev has called for substantial reforms aimed at reducing the state’s deep involvement in the economy, bridging the gap between the wealthy minority and the struggling majority — and eliminating triggers for further turmoil.