How serious is Nazarbayev about his resignation?

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has resigned after almost 30 years as leader of the former Soviet republic. The Parliamentary Speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will take over as president until elections are held in 2020. Commentators take stock of the situation and discuss Nazarbayev's resignation plan.

Open/close all quotes
Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Father of modern Kazakhstan

Neatkarīgā lavishes praise on Nazabayev:

“He was a charismatic leader who was always at the right place at the right time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union he managed to turn his country into the most modern in Central Asia. Even if Nazarbayev was authoritarian in the areas of democratic freedom and respecting human rights, Kazakhstan remains an example for all other Central Asian states. ... Thanks to his initiative Kazakhstan became the place where the biggest religions in the world can start a dialogue. His main achievements were a balanced foreign policy and stable partnerships with Russia, China, the European Union and the United States.”

Echo of Moscow (RU) /

I am the state - together with my clan

Echo of Moscow republishes an anonymous commentary from the leftist Telegram blog SerpomPo, incensed by the Kazakh example of how power has been usurped in many former Soviet republics:

“In its brazenness, Nazarbayev's 'resignation' is reminiscent only of the Putin-Medvedev-Putin shuffle or Ilham Aliyev's succeeding his father Heydar as president in Azerbaijan. Everywhere where 'sovereignty', 'traditional values', a 'special way', and the rejection of the rules of Western liberal democracy have prevailed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the same phenomenon is to be observed: a lawless, miserable, divided nation plagued by propaganda, and a rich, non-exchangeable elite which juggles power back and forth from one friendly or kindred hand to the other.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Inspiration for the Kremlin boss

Nazarbayev's slow relinquishing of power could serve as an example for Putin, Helsingin Sanomat suggests:

“Nazarbayev is showing other leaders how to quit the presidency. This week he announced his resignation for health reasons. Entirely understandable for a 78-year-old statesman. Nevertheless his resignation has been well prepared. What's more he isn't giving up all his power. For instance he will remain chairman of the country's Security Council. And this week his daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva will become chairwoman of the Senate. If Nazarbayev's model works it could also be of interest for Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Corrupt networks are robust

Whether the resignation of the "lifelong leader" Nazarbayev as president will improve matters is questionable, according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“The handing over of the presidency to an experienced statesman, 65-year-old former prime minister, foreign minister and parliamentary speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, will maintain continuity. At the same time Nazarbayev will stay on as head of the security council and thanks to his lifelong status as 'leader of the nation' he retains a veto right on all important matters. Whether this construction offers a viable way out of Kazakhstan's power dilemma is uncertain. The danger the regime in Astana becoming immovable and of corrupt networks being preserved remains.”

Polityka (PL) /

Just window dressing

For Polityka too, Nazarbayev's resignation changes little:

“Nazarbayev has pointed to his long-time confidant Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as a potential successor. ... Tokayev was the right person to govern the country, the departing president said, adding, however, that he would remain in the wings. He will retain the positions of head of the country's Security Council and party leader. Experts believe that little will change in Kazakhstan. Tokayev's appointment as president can only be window dressing. Not long ago Nazarbayev weakened the president's competences, transferring some of them to parliament. That suggests that he wants to continue ruling in the style of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who had full control of the country but was officially only head of the sports federation.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Nazarbayev always exemplary towards Russians

Radio Kommersant FM praises Nazarbayev above all for his policy of ensuring equal rights for the Russian minority:

“Nazarbayev always received 'support' from young national patriots with crazy ideas. They made completely irresponsible demands for the suppression of the Russian language or the limiting of Russia's excessive influence. Nazarbayev deserves credit for always opposing such views. Kazakhstan is almost exemplary when it comes to internal ethnic relations in the post-Soviet area. ... But in this case time doesn't work in our favour because Astana is building closer ties to the West and also moving closer to China. ... Yet from a geopolitical point of view Astana has no choice but to maintain good relations with Moscow.”