Kazakhstan’s parliament has passed amendments to the bills that would cancel former President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s lifetime chairmanship of the country’s Security Council and the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan, both constitutional bodies.
The bill, approved on Wednesday by the Mazhilis, the country’s lower house of its bicameral parliament, will also cancel the need to coordinate state initiatives with Kazakhstan’s first president on the main directions of the state's domestic and foreign policy.
The document is now expected to be signed by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Mazhilis’ approval of the bill, which will cancel the former president’s lifetime chairmanship in powerful constitutional bodies, came almost a month after the unprecedented protests that hit the country.
In early January, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Kazakhstan over the soaring fuel price, which later turned into the biggest crisis to shake the oil-rich Central Asian country since it gained independence in 1991. Demonstrators demanded the price of liquefied petroleum gas — a low-carbon fuel that many Kazakhstanis use to power their cars — to be halved from 120 tenge ($0.27) per liter to the level at which it was sold in 2021.
Although the initial cause of the unrest in the country was the doubling of LPG prices, the protests later intensified into widespread discontent with the government. Some protesters were chanting slogans saying “Shal, ket!” (“Old man, go away!”) as they stormed the streets, referring to the country’s longtime strongman, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Amid the deteriorating protests, President Tokayev dismissed the government and stripped his powerful predecessor of a role as head of the country’s Security Council.
In the video address posted on January 18, the 81-year-old Nazarbayev described the unrest as an assault on Kazakhstan aimed to destroy the integrity of the country and the state’s foundations. In his address, the former president said he had relinquished formal and informal powers in 2019, adding that he was now a simple “pensioner.”
Nursultan Nazarbayev ruled Central Asia’s largest country for three decades since the country gained independence in 1991. Since then, Nazarbayev was re-elected as president four times: in 1999, 2005, 2011, and again in 2015. In 1995, Kazakhstanis took part in a referendum to ratify his proposal to skip the scheduled 1996 presidential election and allow him to remain in office until 2000. Seven years later, parliament passed legislation to remove term limits.
While ruling the country, he also chaired the country’s Security Council for almost 30 years. In 2018, Nazarbayev became lifelong chairman of the council under the law adopted a year earlier. After abruptly resigning the presidency in 2019, he remained at the helm of the influential constitutional body and also retained control over the country as “Leader of the Nation” — a title that afforded him unique policymaking privileges as well as immunity from prosecution. Nazarbayev also remained the leader of the ruling Nur Otan party until January 28, 2021, when President Tokayev replaced him.