NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev Tuesday (April 9) called a snap election for June as his nation seeks a new leader following the shock resignation of its longtime ruler, AFP reported.
Nursultan Nazarbayev, the only leader an independent Kazakhstan had ever known, announced suddenly he was stepping down last month after nearly three decades in office.
Nazarbayev, who retained significant powers following his resignation, named Tokayev to replace him for the remainder of his term due to finish next year.
On Tuesday, Tokayev said the presidential election would be held on June 9 instead.
In a televised address to the nation, Tokayev said he had consulted with Nazarbayev -- known as "Elbasy" or "Leader of the Nation" in Kazakh -- and other top officials before making the decision.
"We must continue to work on efficiently and successfully implementing the social programmes and strategy of Elbasy," said Tokayev, according to Nur.kz.
As the acting head of state, I guarantee that the elections will be held honestly, openly and fairly."
Tokayev did not immediately say whether he would run, though most analysts have tipped him to succeed Nazarbayev, at least in the short term.
Nazarbayev's daughter, 55-year-old Dariga Nazarbayeva, has been widely tipped as a possible successor to her father but on Tuesday reportedly ruled out running in the June vote.
"No, [Nazarbayeva] doesn't plan to run," her spokeswoman, Saule Mustafayeva, told the private Tengrinews outlet.
Nazarbayev, 78, has the constitutional status of "Leader of the Nation". He is chairman of the ruling Nur Otan Party and chairman for life of the country's Security Council.
"We look forward to a credible and inclusive Presidential election which respects the will of the Kazakh people," the European Union said in a statement.
Whoever wins the upcoming election, the new Kazakh leader faces many challenges, including growing concerns about Russian interference.
Kazakhstan, which has a concentration of ethnic Russians in the north of the country, has undertaken the voluntary resettlement of ethnic Kazakhs from the south to the north as a means to undermine Kremlin attempts to manipulate ethnic tensions in the country.