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Paging Nicolas Cage And Borat: Social Media Reacts With Glee To Kazakh Leader's Resignation

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has officially stepped down after some 30 years in power. (file photo)

Nazarbaev gifts Toqaev a car, but without a steering wheel.

Toqaev: Hey, where's the wheel?

Nazarbaev: You just keep your foot on the gas pedal, and I'll steer.

This quip was made by Kazakh journalist Svetlana Glushkova who took to Twitter to react to the news that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev was stepping down after nearly 30 years in power.

Nazarbaev's handpicked successor Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev was sworn in on March 20 as interim president, but many Kazakhs believe Nazarbaev, 78, will call the shots.

Along with his status as "Elbasy," or "leader of the nation," Nazarbaev will also keep his positions as the head of the ruling Nur Otan party and as the lifetime chairman of the country's Security Council.

"Maybe it's not a real resignation from power but still people are congratulating each other," Kazakh satirist Samat Jamaev wrote on Facebook. "There are so many happy emotions expressed in Internet chats. For the first time, Kazakh people are happy!" Jamaev added.

'Thanks For Leaving While Still Alive'

Kazakh Journalist Tatyana Panchenko described the resignation announcement as "the biggest news in 30 years," while poet Erbol Zhumagul wrote: "Thank you for leaving while still alive."

In Central Asia, presidents stay in power for decades, sometimes until they die.

In Uzbekistan, President Islam Karimov ruled the country for 27 years until his death in 2016. Turkmenistan's Saparmurat Niyazov was in charge from 1985 until he died in 2006, while in Tajikistan, President Emomali Rahmon has held onto power since 1992.

The only exception in the region is Kyrgyzstan, where the presidency has changed hands several times in recent years.

"Kyrgyz people, please tell us what to do when the president changes, because we don't have a f***ing idea, honestly," Sultan from Kazakhstan wrote on Twitter.

"There is only one bit of good news in this situation: We lived to see the next president of Kazakhstan," Kazakh journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov wrote on Facebook. "Otherwise, everything is just like our childhood: everyone knew that Grandfather Frost is the PE teacher, but we were happy anyway," he added.

A user on Twitter couldn't contain their excitement: "This year, we've been waiting for the finales of three major franchises: The Avengers, Game of Thrones, and the new Star Wars. But Nursultan Nazarbaev beat all of them. This is the finale of finales."

Meanwhile in Belarus, some social-media users called on the country's President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to follow Nazarbaev's example and resign. Lushashenka, a more sprightly 64 years old, has been in power since 1994.

"Accept the challenge, Alyaksandr Grigoryevich," wrote Minsk- based Ivan Karpenko.

There has also been talk of other potential replacements. Some social-media users suggested Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage and Borat, a fictional Kazakh journalist created by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, as successors to Nazarbaev.

Cage was the butt of jokes after a 2017 trip to Kazakhstan, where he was photographed in a traditional Kazakh winter coat and fur hat at the height of summer.

"All of Kazakhstan shivered when it learned the name of the new president," tweeted kirapigeion.

"Urgent! Nursultan Nazarbaev's successor has been announced!" wrote Vorontsov on Twitter, sharing a photo of Borat with the Kazakh national flag in the background.

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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.