REUTERS

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev says he has resigned from his position after nearly 30 years in power in the Central Asian country.

"I have decided to end my duties as president," Nazarbaev said in a televised address to the nation on March 19, RFE/RL wrote.

He spoke hours after his office said that he would make an important announcement.

Nazarbaev said that that the speaker of the upper parliament chamber, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, will hold presidential authority for now.

It was not immediately clear whether Nazarbaev, 78, would take another position.

There has been speculation that Nazarbaev, who has ruled the energy-rich country since before the Soviet collapse of 1991, might step down as president but continue to hold power in another capacity.

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