Millions of people in Kazakhstan are wondering how life will change under a new president, following the decision by long-standing ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev to step down. Nazarbayev announced his retirement on March 19, after nearly 30 years as president. Before his unexpected declaration Nazarbayev was the only president in Kazakhstan’s post-Soviet history. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a former chairman of the Senate, succeeds as acting president and will remain in power in the run-up to elections scheduled for 2020. A loyal ally to Nazarbayev over the years, one of Tokayev’s first orders was to ratify changing the name of the Kazakh capital Astana to Nursultan, in tribute to the former president. Meanwhile Nazarbayev will hold power behind the throne, as chairman of the country’s Security Council.
The change comes amid Kazakhstan’s Year of Youth, a government-led plan aimed at improving the lives of young people across the country. Boosting youth employment and education and providing greater access to housing are among the ostensible aims of the programme, which comes amid rising discontent over living standards and a widening income gap between the rich and poor that prompted Nazarbayev to sack the government in February.
In this episode of The Stream we’ll look at the day-to-day lives of young Kazakhs and what is at the forefront of their minds. What are the challenges and difficulties they face, and what are the opportunities they most dearly want? Are they optimistic or pessimistic for the future? And how are young people making their voices heard in Kazakhstan? We’ll ask those questions – and more.
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