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Kazakh President Cedes Key Powers To Predecessor Nazarbaev

Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (left) and Nursultan Nazarbaev attend the Astana Economic Forum in Nur-Sultan in May.
Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (left) and Nursultan Nazarbaev attend the Astana Economic Forum in Nur-Sultan in May.

Kazakh President President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has handed his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbaev, more sweeping powers, according to a presidential decree published on October 21.

Toqaev, 66, became president after Nazarbaev's surprise resignation in March. Nazarbaev, 79, spent almost three decades in power and is still considered Kazakhstan's top decision-maker.

The decree, published on the state website of official legal acts, says Toqaev should consult Nazarbaev before appointing chiefs of state institutions and ministers except those holding the foreign, interior, and defense portfolios.

Among the institutions whose leadership now needs Nazarbaev's approval is the powerful Committee for National Security (KNB), a successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

The same procedure will apply to provincial governors and other senior officials.

Toqaev was handpicked by Nazarbaev to be his successor, and became acting president in March after the longtime leader officially stepped down.

Toqaev was inaugurated as Kazakhstan's new president in June after a weakly contested election that was marred by what international observers called "widespread voting irregularities."

The October 21 move appears to further boost Nazarbaev's powers. He is chairman of both the national Security Council and the ruling party that nominated Toqaev and also holds the title of "elbasy," or leader of the nation.

Nazarbaev has appeared more often in public recently and blamed what he called "gossip" about disagreements with Toqaev on regime opponents in an interview on Kazakh state television this month.

But Nazarbaev said during the interview that he would not keep silent if the government made decisions he disagreed with.

Opponents, critics, and rights groups say Nazarbaev, who tolerated little dissent, denied many citizens basic rights and prolonged his power in the energy-rich country of 18.7 million by manipulating the democratic process. No vote held in Kazakhstan since 1991 has been deemed free and democratic by international observers.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and Eurasianet
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