Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev says he will resign the post he has held for almost 30 years, abruptly announcing the end of an era that began in 1990.
Kazakhstan, where 60% of the population is under 30, has never had a leader other than Nazarbayev, who was popular and successful in the nation-building effort, including the building of the new capital, Astana, of which Kazakhs are proud.
Nazarbayev enjoys a strong working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Then, the election of a new President is held".
Tokayev will take office after taking the oath at the parliament on Wednesday.
The head of state security, 53-year-old Karim Masimov, is also a close Nazarbayev confidant.
In case the current President relinquishes the duties, his duties are transferred to the Chairman of the Senate until the end of the current term. Uzbekistan, the most populous nation in former Soviet Central Asia, has undergone a political thaw after the death of Karimov. The votes were internationally criticised and he was accused of tolerating little opposition to his rule.
Nazarbaev's resignation comes just two days before Norouz, the springtime new year's holiday that is celebrated in many predominantly Muslim countries.
In his address, Nazarbayev listed a series of achievements, saying the economy had grown by 15 times during his years in office.
Kazakh leader Nazarbayev resigns after three decades
"Tokayev is the very person that we can trust to rule Kazakhstan", he said.
That decision followed rising dissatisfaction in Kazakhstan, whose commodity-dependent economy has struggled to recover from a 2014 plunge in oil prices and Western sanctions against Russian Federation, a key trading partner.
The announcement came less than a month after the President sacked his government, citing a lack of economic development despite the country's vast energy resources. As Eurasianet puts it: "Even though he is stepping down as head of state, Nazarbayev will retain a wide-ranging degree of authority under his bespoke title of Leader of the Nation".
Since he took power, Nazarbayev has been consistently re-elected.
In his speech, Nazarbayev also expressed confidence in Senate chief Tokayev, saying: "He is the person we can entrust with the governance of Kazakhstan".
On field trips to Kazakhstan EURACTIV has discreetly asked what would happen if Nazarbayev died and Kazakh interlocutors have often mentioned Tokayev as the natural heir in such dramatic circumstance. "This plan has been thought up precisely in order for everything to stay the same", Duvanov said. Born to humble beginnings in 1940, he trained as a metalworker before later joining the Soviet Communist Party and quickly rising up the ranks.
"He isn't leaving the scene but when a new president is installed, he will lose some of his power", Paul Goble, a longtime analyst of Russian and post-Soviet affairs, told RFE/RL.