Kazakhstan leader Nursultan Nazarbayev resigns after 30 years in power

(Sky News) – He came to power in the late 1980s around the time the country achieved independence from the Soviet Union.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the only leader that independent Kazakhstan has ever known, has announced his resignation in a televised address to the country.

Mr Nazarbayev has been the country’s leader for 30 years.

He said “I have taken a decision, which was not easy for me, to resign as president,” but did not give a reason for doing so.

He added: “It was an honour for me to serve the people… I have worked hard to fulfil the nation’s will.”

The 78-year-old has led the country since 1980 as its communist leader, then in 1991 was elected president.

Mr Nazarbayev is expected to continue to chair Kazakhstan’s security council and remain the leader of the ruling Nur Otan party.

Mr Nazarbayev is credited with keeping peace and stability in the country, but is often criticised with side-lining the opposition and stifling freedom of speech.

He also helped attract billions of dollars in investment to the oil-rich nation from foreign energy companies

In 2015 he was re-elected president, with 98% of the country voting for him, in an election that was widely criticised as offering no credible alternative to voters.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the speaker of Kazakhstan’s upper house, will take over as acting president, in line with the country’s constitution.

Russian officials, who have a close relationship with Kazakhstan, have described Mr Nazarbayev’s resignation as “unexpected and very serious”.