Kazakhstan limits presidential term, renames capital

President Tokayev signs a bill reinstating capital’s name to Astana from Nur-Sultan.

The capital's name was changed to Nur-Sultan in March 2019, in honour of outgoing President Nursultan Nazarbayev [File: Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters]

Kazakhstan’s president has signed a law limiting presidential terms and reverting to the old name of the Central Asian country’s capital in the latest step of breaking with the legacy of his predecessor.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a bill on Saturday, extending presidential mandates to a seven-year term, from the current five, and barring any president from running for a second term in office.

The Kazakh Parliament unanimously supported the amendments in two readings on Friday.

The bill also reinstated the capital’s name to Astana. The name was changed to Nur-Sultan in March 2019, in honour of outgoing President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The change is effective immediately, according to a decree on the presidential website.

Astana became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997 when Nazarbayev, who led the country for three decades under the Soviet Union and after it gained independence in 1991, moved it there from Almaty.

After he stepped down in 2019, his successor Tokayev moved to name it Nur-Sultan – in honour of Nazarbayev, who retained enormous influence as head of the country’s ruling party and security council.

But Tokayev removed him from those posts after the deadly unrest in January that hinged partly on dissatisfaction with the power that Nazarbayev still wielded, and announced sweeping reforms.

Since Tokayev took over from Nazarbayev in 2019, he has gradually distanced himself from the man who ruled the energy-rich nation with an iron fist.

Tokayev has launched reforms and called for “completely new standards for a political system with fair and open rules of the game”.

Riots erupted in the country in January, killing more than 200 people.

The unrest, sparked by a sharp rise in fuel prices, also reflected widespread dismay with the country’s politics.

Earlier this month, Tokayev called for an early presidential election and announced the move to bring back the old name of the country’s capital.

Tokayev has previously said he would run in the election. It was not immediately clear whether the new amendments would allow him to, but similar constitutional changes in Russia and Belarus allowed incumbent leaders to run again under the amended constitution.

Source: News Agencies