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President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Authoritarian power is all the rage across the continents. But one of the most practiced autocrats on the planet, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has just offered up an object lesson in how to elevate mere one-man power to something higher.

In an announcement yesterday, the 78-year-old Nazarbayev resigned after 3 decades in power. It was seemingly historic news — the exit of the last political survivor of the Soviet Union, for which he had served as vice president until its 1991 collapse.

That's what was surprising to those like me who have followed the exceedingly shrewd Nazarbayev. I was a Kazakhstan-based correspondent through the 1990s, and I profiled him as part of a history of the U.S.-Russian struggle for power on the Caspian Sea.

  • Renunciation of power seemed out of character in a region whose leaders typically conflate their own identity and the state itself. As Louis XIV put it, "l'état, c'est moi" — the state, it's me.

As it turns out, it was out of character: Through an entanglement of titles conferred by the supine Parliament, Nazarbayev is holding onto supreme power. And that's not all:

  • He got a big city named after himself: The loyalist new acting president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, yesterday renamed the national capital of Astana after Nazarbayev. It is now enshrined as Nursultan.
  • A possible dynasty was set in motion: Nazarbayev's eldest daughter, Dariga, became the second-most powerful official in the country with her appointment yesterday as president of the Senate. This positions her to run for president in 2020, when Tokayev's term will expire.

Be smart: Together, the moves resemble the long rule of Singaporean founder Lee Kuan Yew, a figure much respected in the former Soviet Union. Lee also served for 3 decades as his country's leader, then behind the scenes remained its most powerful figure for 21 years after that. He died in 2015.

  • Lee's son, Lee Hsien Loong, has been Singaporean prime minister since 2004.

Go deeper

Tim Scott hopes to reintroduce version of GOP police reform bill

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters Wednesday he plans to reintroduce his police reform bill or a similar proposal in the coming weeks and that he has discussed a potential compromise with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Why it matters: Eyes have again turned to Washington to take steps to address police reform in the wake of Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict Tuesday, after efforts stalled in Congress last year.

Biden announces small business tax credits for vaccine PTO

Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday called on all employers to provide workers paid time off to get vaccinated or recover from COVID side effects, and said he'll include a paid tax credit for small businesses that do so.

Why it matters: The Biden administration sees workplaces as highly influential in making shots more convenient for working adults who are in high-risk industries.

White House unveils plans for high-profile climate summit

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration offered new details this morning about the big, virtual climate summit Thursday and Friday and signaled they expect new emissions reduction and climate finance commitments from multiple countries.

Driving the news: The administration said 40 heads of state would attend, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.