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President Toqaev Consolidates Power As Kazakh Ruling Party Leader.

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has replaced predecessor Nursultan Nazarbaev as the leader of the ruling Nur-Otan party, the latest in a series of moves to consolidate his power and marginalize his predecessor following deadly anti-government protests in early January.

The presidential press service said that the decision was made at the party's congress on January 28 at the behest of Nazarbaev.

Despite announcing in March 2019 that he was stepping down after almost 30 years of ruling the oil-rich Central Asian state, Nazarbaev continued to have a strong influence over Kazakhstan's domestic and foreign policies as lifetime chairman of the influential Security Council and the leader the Assembly of Kazakhstan's People and the Nur-Otan party.

While he lost the first two positions earlier this week, and the party leadership on January 27, Nazarbaev continues to enjoy the powers of "elbasy" (leader of the nation).

The congress was held amid a protest by some members of the party who quit its ranks over what they see as the party's "failure" to prevent bloodshed during the anti-government protests.

After the party congress announced him as the new leader, Toqaev reiterated previous statements -- again without presenting evidence -- that "terrorists" tried to take over the country by "hijacking peaceful protests."

He also said that "due to ongoing rumors in the country, I would like to say again that our first president contributed a lot to turn our nation into a stable country with a strong base."

The protests earlier this month in the remote town of Zhanaozen over a sudden fuel-price hike quickly spread across Kazakhstan with much of the protesters' anger directed at Nazarbaev, who had ruled Kazakhstan since 1989.

In the wake of protests, Toqaev, Nazarbaev's handpicked successor, claimed that Almaty was attacked by "20,000 terrorists" as he issued a "shoot-to-kill-without warning" order and invited troops from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization's to enter the country.

No officials have given direct evidence of any "terrorists" being involved in the unrest."

Kazakh authorities say that 227 people were killed during the unrest, including 19 law enforcement officers, and 12,000 others were detained.

Human rights groups insist that the number of people killed during the violence may be much higher as scores of people remain missing.

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