Nazarbaev Becomes Security Council's Chairman For Life

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has become the head of the Central Asian country’s Security Council for life.

State-run media published a presidential decree on July 12 that brought the new law into force.

The decree was adopted by Kazakh lawmakers in May and approved by the country’s constitutional court in June.

Nazarbaev signed the decree on July 5, a day before his 78th birthday that was lavishly celebrated on same day as the Day of the Kazakh Capital, Astana, a public holiday. But the law only came into force on July 12 after it was made public.

According to the law, Nazarbaev was granted the right to lead the Security Council "for [his] life time due to his historic mission."

Under the decree, the status of the body was changed from consultative to constitutional, increasing its clout.

Many in Kazakhstan see the move as a sign that Nazarbaev is seeking to ensure that he will maintain his grip on power if he steps down as president.

But amid persistent speculation that he may be preparing for a political transition, Nazarbaev said on March 5 that he will "continue to work so that our people will look to the future with confidence."

Last year, Nazarbaev announced plans to delegate some of his sweeping powers to parliament and to the government, transforming his own leadership into a role he described as "Supreme Arbiter."

Nazarbaev has been in power in the energy-rich Central Asian country since before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

He was last elected in 2015, securing a new five-year term after moving the vote up from 2016 in what was widely seen as a move to strengthen his control.

Rights activists and critics say he has persistently suppressed dissent, prolonged his time in office through undemocratic votes, and used the levers of power to neutralize potential opponents.