Current Affairs 20 March 2019 Digest 3: Kazakhstan's President abruptly resigns after nearly 30 years; Germany initiates move to ban Masood Azhar
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev abruptly announced his resignation from the position on March 19, 2019 after nearly three decades in power. The 78-year-old leader has ruled the central Asian nation ever since it emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Story 1- Kazakhstan's President announces sudden resignation after nearly three decades in power
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev abruptly announced his resignation from the position on March 19, 2019 after nearly three decades in power.
The 78-year-old leader has ruled the central Asian nation ever since it emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. He is the only leader that independent Kazakhstan has ever known. Hence, his sudden resignation raises uncertainty over the future course of the nation.
Reasons for Resignation
While announcing his resignation through a televised address, Nazarbayev said that though the decision was not easy, it was taken to help bring up a new generation of leaders. He said he sees his mission as ensuring the transition of power to a new generation.
The announcement comes less than a month after the President sacked his government, citing a lack of economic development despite the country's vast energy resources. Nazarbayev was scheduled to complete exactly 30 years in power later this year.
While Nazarbayev will be stepping down from Presidency, he would be retaining a considerable amount of political power, as he would remain as the Chairman of the nation’s Security Council and the head of the ruling Nur Otan party.
Who will be in-charge now?
Nazarbayev announced that the speaker of Kazakh Senate, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will serve as the interim head of state in line with the constitution until a new election is held.
Tokayev is a former prime minister and foreign minister of the nation and has also served as the director-general of the UN office in Geneva between 2011 and 2013.
Nursultan Nazarbayev was first appointed as the Communist Party chief of the former Soviet Union Republic in 1989, when it was still a part of the bloc. He was then elected as its President weeks before the 1991 Soviet collapse, which gave the nation its independence.
In those days, Kazakhstan was a backwater region best known for prisons, nuclear testing sites and being the home of the launch facility of the Soviet space program, the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Currently, Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world with an area of about 2.7 million square kilometres (1 million square miles). It borders Russia to the north and China to the east and has extensive oil reserves that make it strategically and economically important. It has a population of only 18 million.
Nazarbayev was the last of Central Asia’s former Communist Party leaders to remain in power. The President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, is now Central Asia's longest-serving head of state, having assumed power in 1992 during a civil war.
• Nazarbayev was born into a poor rural labourer’s family on July 6, 1940. As a young adult, he worked in harsh conditions at a steel plant’s blast furnace. He joined the Communist Party at the age of 22 and worked his way up in the party.
• He had supported Russian President Boris Yeltsin during the failed coup against Soviet Union's last leader Mikhail Gorbachev by Communist hardliners. While Nazarbayev had resisted taking Kazakhstan out of the Soviet Union while it began disintegrating, he finally did so in December 1991.
• In his Presidency, Nazarbayev was praised for maintaining stability and ethnic peace in Kazakhstan. He was also praised for modernizing the nation's oil industry and for his decision to give up the nuclear weapons that Kazakhstan had inherited from the Soviet Union.
• In 2010, he was awarded the title of “Leader of the Nation,” which came with lifelong immunity from prosecution and powers of veto over some government policies. However, Nazarbayev faced criticism for marginalising the political opposition and creating what is effectively a one-party state.
• Nazarbayev managed to extend his tenure by landslide victories in successive elections and plebiscites. In the 2015 elections, he took nearly 98 per cent of the vote.
• His resignation comes at a time of rare open protests against the government. He had fired his prime minister and cabinet last month following a wave of protests by Kazakh women calling for more financial support for children and safer housing after a fire in which five children died. Soon after, he announced a program of more generous spending for large families.
• His resignation is now expected to set the stage for a potential battle between Russia and the United States for influence with the successor government.
Story 1- Germany initiates move to designate Masood Azhar as global terrorist
Germany has initiated a move at the European Union to designate the Chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. The move comes days after China blocked a motion at the UN Security Council to ban him.
Germany has been initiating talks with several European Union member states to list Azhar as a global terrorist, which will result in his travel ban as well as the freezing of his assets in the 28-country bloc.
According to reports, Germany has also floated a proposal in this regard but no resolution has been moved yet. All the 28 EU member nations will have to support the move in order to ban the JeM Chief, as the bloc decides on such issues under the principle of consensus.
On March 15, 2019, France imposed financial sanctions on Azhar and said it will work with its European partners to put the JeM chief’s name on the EU list of persons and entities involved in terrorist acts.
The decision by France came two days after China blocked a fresh move to designate Azhar a global terrorist by the Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council.
The proposal to ban Azhar was moved by France, the UK and the US, in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack in India, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. JeM had claimed responsibility for the gruesome attack.
Among the 15 members of the UNSC, 14 had supported the proposal against Azhar, leaving China as the only nation that did not support it.