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Kazakhstan’s capital of Nur-Sultan will revert to its former name, “Astana,” a move seen as another attempt by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to distance himself from his predecessor, Radio Free Europe reported.

In 2019, Tokayev renamed then-Astana to Nur-Sultan in honor of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had been Kazakhstan’s president since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Nazarbayev resigned in 2019 and picked Tokayev as his successor. Still, he retained considerable power as the head of the Security Council and held the title of “Elbasy” (leader of the nation).

But Tokayev removed him from his posts after deadly protests erupted in January, which were partly influenced by perceived corruption under Nazarbayev and the cronyism that allowed his family and close friends to enrich themselves while ordinary citizens failed to share in the oil-rich Central Asian nation’s wealth.

In June, a referendum removed Nazarbayev’s name from the constitution and stripped him of the “Elbasy” designation.

Meanwhile, Tokayev has called for snap presidential elections this year and proposed plans to cap the president’s term to a single seven-year limit, the Financial Times noted. The president said the changes aim to “significantly lower the risks of power monopolization.”

Still, critics say the president’s efforts are primarily cosmetic and do not alter the authoritarian nature of the government nor will they rid the country of corruption and cronyism.

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