New Kazakh president sworn in, proposes renaming capital

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AFP) – The head of Kazakhstan’s senate was sworn in as interim president in a pomp-filled ceremony yesterday, and immediately proposed renaming the country’s capital after his predecessor.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the only leader an independent Kazakhstan has ever known, shocked the nation on Tuesday with his resignation after nearly three decades in power.

Senate chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 65, was Kazakhstan’s second in command and is set to serve as president until fresh elections in April next year.

But Nazarbayev, 78, will retain significant influence thanks to his constitutional status as “Leader of the Nation” and lifelong position as chief of the country’s security council.

In his first announcement after his swearing, Tokayev said the capital Astana should be renamed after Nazarbayev.

“I propose… naming the country’s capital Astana in honour of the first president,” Tokayev said, suggesting the new name be “Nursultan”.