Kazakh scraps Nur-Sultan, changes capital name back to Astana

Astana, Sep 17 (EFE).- Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Saturday signed into law a bill that limits the presidency to one seven-year term and restores ‘Astana’ as the name of the Central Asian country’s capital.

Tokayev signed the bill amending the country’s constitution a day after it was approved by the two chambers of Kazakhstan’s parliament.

“The bill contains a clause on the presidential term of seven years without the right to re-election,” Kazakh Justice Minister Kanat Musin announced during the presentation of the amendments to lawmakers.

It also contained a clause to change the name of the capital, Nur-Sultan, back to Astana.

“The change of name of the capital has been debated for a long time throughout society, so, taking into account public opinion, this proposal was included in the bill,” the minister said.

Astana was renamed Nur-Sultan in 2019 in honor of the first Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, which cost the state coffers some 30 million tenges (about $64,000).

Authorities said they expect that the new change will involve fewer expenses due to the digitalization of the bulk of the procedures.

Although the name change of the Kazakh capital has been one of the most debated issues in the Central Asian nation in recent times, the presidential reform is of cardinal importance for Kazakh politics, the deputies noted.

“Our country has the bitter experience of re-elections without a term for the presidency. In 30 years we have had only two presidents. If we implement this amendment, we will have two presidents every 14 years and not every 30,” declared deputy Isa Kazibek during the parliament debate.

This rule will be immovable, Musin said, noting that the amendment on presidential terms cannot be reviewed by future leaders, like other rules on Kazakh territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Astana (which means ‘capital’ in the Kazakh language) has changed its name several times throughout history: initially, it was called Tselinograd, then Akmola (white grave or white sacred place). It became Astan when then-President Nazarbayev declared it the capital in 1998. EFE



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