Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has abruptly announced his resignation, 29 years after taking office. "Nazarbaev has been considering various options for power transition and has chosen one that will allow him to oversee the succession process and normalize the idea that Kazakhstan can also be ruled by a leader other than himself".
He was elected president on the eve of the Soviet breakup in 1991.
But Nazarbayev, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he would retain key security council and party leader positions and hand over the presidency to a loyal ally for the rest of his term, which ends in April 2020.
Senate Speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev may have been assigned the role of interim-president, but "Nazarbayev will still control the political process in the country from the outside", he pointed out.
Kazakhstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a free trade bloc that also includes Russian Federation and Belarus.
A huge country the size of Western Europe, Kazakhstan has vast mineral resources and enormous economic potential. "This [resignation] will certainly cause it to take notice of some new possibilities", he said. Nazarbayev, who won uncontested presidential elections in the 1990s, affirmed that he will always be involved in government. He has since managed to maintain close ties with Russian Federation, the West, and China, Kazakhstan's giant eastern neighbour.
But just who might that be? Let me read it out: on the authority of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan...
Toqaev, 65, is a Moscow-educated former prime minister and foreign minister who also served as a United Nations diplomat in Geneva.
Nazarbaev is the only president Kazakhstan has ever known.
Mr Nazarbayev subsequently named 53-year-old Askar Mamin as the new prime minister and announced a major spending plan on social programmes and state salaries.
Nazarbayev's eldest daughter, Dariga, the most politically ambitious of his children, is a senator and once led a political party of her own. He has served twice as prime minister and also worked as the president's chief of staff. In April 2015, he was re-elected with nearly 98% of the vote and he also holds the title of "Leader of the Nation".
"I don't think we will see another Nazarbaev or Nazarbaeva in the presidency", said Goble. "What we will see will be someone in the first instance who comes out of his entourage and whom he has groomed".
Nazarbayev, 78, ruled Kazakhstan since before the collapse of the Soviet Union and leaves no obvious successor.