Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Saturday signed into law a bill that limits the presidency to a term of seven years and restores “Astana” as the name of the capital of the Central Asian country.

Tokayev signed the bill amending the country’s constitution a day after it was approved by both chambers of Kazakhstan’s parliament.

“The bill contains a clause on the seven-year presidential term without the right to re-election,” Kazakh Justice Minister Kanat Musin said when presenting the amendments to lawmakers.

It also contained a clause to change the name of the capital, Nur-Sultan, to Astana.

“The renaming of the capital has been debated for a long time in the whole society, therefore, in view of public opinion, this proposal has been included in the bill,” the minister said.

Astana was renamed Nur-Sultan in 2019 after the first Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, which cost the state some 30 million tenge (about $64,000).

Authorities said they expect the new change to involve less expense due to the digitization of most procedures.

Although the renaming of the Kazakh capital has been one of the most debated issues in the Central Asian nation in recent times, presidential reform is of central importance to Kazakh politics, the deputies noted.

“Our country has the bitter experience of re-elections without a presidential term. In 30 years, we have only had two presidents. If we apply this amendment, we will have two presidents every 14 years and not every 30,” MP Isa Kazibek said during the parliamentary debate.

This rule will be irremovable, Musin said, noting that the amendment on presidential terms cannot be revised by future leaders, like other rules on Kazakh territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Astana (which means ‘capital’ in the Kazakh language) has changed its name several times throughout history: first it was called Tselinograd, then Akmola (white tomb or white sacred place). It became Astan when then-President Nazarbayev declared it the capital in 1998. EFE

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