ALMATY: Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, said on Tuesday (Mar 19) that he was resigning as the oil-rich Central Asian nation's leader after three decades in power.
Nazarbayev, 78, has led the former Soviet republic since 1989, first as its Communist leader and then as president.
"I have taken a decision, which was not easy for me, to resign as president," Nazarbayev said in a televised address.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 65, speaker of the upper house of parliament, will take over as the country's acting president for the remainder of his term in line with the constitution, Nazarbayev said.
Tokayev is a former prime minister and career diplomat.
Nazarbayev, who has helped attract tens of billions of dollars from foreign energy companies, said he would continue to chair the Security Council and remain leader of the Nur Otan party which dominates parliament.
Nazarbayev's term expires in March 2020.
The move comes on the back of growing social discontent and an economy still recovering from an oil price plunge in 2014.
Western sanctions against Russia, a key trading partner, have also hit the economy.
The resignation comes just weeks after the ageing strongman dismissed the country's government.
Last month Nazarbayev announced a spending package of several billion dollars on social programmes and state salaries.
He also promised major investments in infrastructure.
Nazarbayev will enjoy significant policy-making powers following his resignation thanks to his constitutional status as "Leader of the Nation".
He became lifelong head of the country's security council last year.
Nazarbayev, who won a 2015 election with almost 98 per cent of the vote, was widely expected to seek another term in 2020.