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Kazakh Ex-President Rejects Talk Of Shared Power, Blames 'Traitors' For Unrest

Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (center) made his remarks to interviewers from state TV.
Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (center) made his remarks to interviewers from state TV.

Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev used an extended interview on state television on October 11 to downplay his continuing influence and defer to his successor, condemn "traitors" abroad for allegedly trying to stoke unrest, and generally praise his 29-year rule that ended earlier this year.

The 79-year-old product of Soviet authoritarianism traded the presidency for a less conspicuous but still enormously influential role in March, installing former prime minister and ex-diplomat Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev as his successor.

Nazarbaev still enjoys his bespoke "leader of the nation" title and its comforts, including immunity from prosecution.

He also presides over the powerful Security Council and chairs the long-ruling Nur Otan party.

He told his state Khabar TV interviewers that, while Toqaev "consults" him, there is "no justification" for speculation about "dual power" in Kazakhstan.

Nazarbaev said such "rumors were started by people who don't want stability in Kazakhstan." He added that Kazakhstan "is a unitary state with a presidential system of government."

Toqaev, 66, was inaugurated as the country's new president in June amid ongoing arrests of protesters challenging an election that was marred by what international observers called "widespread voting irregularities."

Kazakhstan has seen a wave of unsanctioned protests in recent months over political stagnation in the country and perceived Chinese influence, resulting in arrests and a tightening of already stiff security measures.

Some of the recent rallies have been organized by Democratic Choice, a banned group whose leader, Mukhtar Ablyazov, lives in self-imposed exile in France.

He has been convicted for murder and other serious charges in absentia by Kazakh courts, and is also wanted by Russia and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling billions of dollars in assets.

The Interior Ministry said in September that "despite repeated warnings" some citizens had fallen prey to the "provocative calls of a banned extremist organization."

Nazarbaev told Khabar that his decision to exit the presidency was "an absolutely well-thought-out step."

"I think I did the right thing, and I don't regret having done so or whom I picked as my successor," he added.

None of the six elections that Nazarbaev won -- most of them in massive landslides -- was recognized as fair or democratic by Western standards.

Critics say he ruled over a police state that routinely jailed and otherwise persecuted political opponents, dominated a fawning media sector, and handed out business and other favors based on political loyalty.

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