Kazakhstan President , Nursultan Nazarbayev , announced his shock resignation on Tuesday, 29 years after taking office .
“ I have taken the decision to resign from the post of presidency , ” the 78- year – old said in a speech broadcast on state television .
Nazarbayev came to power in oil- rich Kazakhstan when it was still a Soviet republic and has previously never indicated a successor.
“ The mandate of the presidency will pass to the chairman of the senate for the remainder of my presidential term , ” Nazarbayev said , referring to the constitution .
The senate chair position is currently held by Nazarbayev loyalist Kassym -Jomart Tokayev , 65, a former prime minister and career diplomat .
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 .