NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakhstan's former authoritarian president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, has received yet another title -- honorary member of the Senate, the upper house of the Central Asian state's parliament.
The May 30 decision by the Senate came a day after the leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union (EES) member states -- Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan -- appointed Nazarbaev as honorary chairman of the EES Economic Committee.
In turn, Nazarbaev on May 29 awarded the presidents of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus a medal named after himself -- the Order of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev -- during a ceremony held in the Kazakh capital, which was renamed Nur-Sultan after Nazarbaev's resignation two months ago.
After Nazarbaev stepped down on March 30, then-Senate speaker Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev became interim president and a snap presidential election was announced for June 9 and is expected to be easily won by Toqaev.
Toqaev's election would be a key stage in a political transition that appears to have been closely choreographed by Nazarbaev, who preserved levers of influence by staying on as lifetime chairman of the country's Security Council and chairman of the ruling Nur-Otan party.
He also enjoys full immunity from prosecution due to his status as "elbasy," or leader of the nation.
Opponents, critics, and rights groups say Nazarbaev, who had ruled oil-rich Kazakhstan since before the Soviet collapse in 1991, denied many citizens basic rights and prolonged his time in office by stifling dissent and manipulating the democratic process.