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Kazakh Ruler’s Post-Oil Overhaul Falters as Succession Looms

  • Nazarbayev faces opposition to land sales, threat of extremism
  • Uncertainty over 76-year-old’s heir also jeopardizes reforms
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As Kazakhstan’s leader celebrated his 76th birthday this week, the social bargain that’s underpinned his more than quarter-century in charge is crumbling.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s plans to retool his nation for an era of low-cost crude are meeting resistance from protesters opposed to land reforms and, more recently, from religious radicals. The struggle to implement his overhaul is distracting the former Soviet Union’s longest-serving ruler from an ever-more urgent task: planning the transition to a successor.