If Kazakh politicians get their wish, the capital city will be renamed to honour the country’s first and only president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The suggestion to rename Astana was buried in a declaration unanimously passed by both chambers of parliament on Wednesday.
On the surface, the declaration was to mark the forthcoming 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. But reading past the tributes to Nazarbayev’s “outstanding service”, the declaration’s final paragraph calls for renaming the capital and other important facilities across the country after theleader of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
However, that decision rests with the 76-year-old president himself, the Constitutional Council head was quoted as saying.
Igor Rogov said Nazarbayev could either call a referendum or send the matter to parliament for debate. “I cannot say whether the president will make such a decision or not,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from the office of Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, first as Communist party leader then, after independence in 1991, as president.
But Kuanysh Sultanov MP said he expected the president to respond to the initiative within weeks. Another parliament deputy, Pavel Kazantsev, said he believed the capital would be renamed by the end of the year.
Initiatives to cement Nazarbayev’s legacy are not uncommon in Kazakhstan. In 2010, parliament bestowed the title of “elbasy” (leader of the nation) on Nazarbayev, granting him and his family lifelong immunity from any civic or criminal prosecution.
While Nazarbayev formally opposed the bill, it automatically became law under a legal clause.