Kazakhstan renames capital after ex-leader | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 21, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, March 21, 2019

Kazakhstan renames capital after ex-leader

Kazakhstan's new interim president was sworn in yesterday following the shock resignation of the country's long-time ruler and in his first official act renamed the capital after his predecessor.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev took office in a pomp-filled ceremony less than 24 hours after Nursultan Nazarbayev, the only leader an independent Kazakhstan had ever known, suddenly announced he was stepping down.

Tokayev immediately proposed changing the name of the Central Asian nation's capital from Astana to Nursultan, or "Sultan of Light" in Kazakh, and parliament approved the change within hours.

The senate also appointed Nazarbayev's eldest daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva as speaker, setting her up as a potential contender to succeed her father. Tokayev, 65, will serve out the rest of Nazarbayev's mandate until elections due in April next year.

Nazarbayev changed the capital from Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty to Astana in 1997, transforming it from a minor provincial town into a futuristic city of skyscrapers rising from the steppes.

Nazarbayev, 78, ruled Kazakhstan since before it gained independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Nazarbayev will continue to enjoy significant powers thanks to his constitutional status as "Leader of the Nation", life-time position as chief of the security council and head of the ruling Nur Otan party.

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