Nazarbayev has been serving as president of Kazakhstan for 28 years, since the office was created on 24 April 1990. The speaker of the country's senate, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, will assume the office of president until a new president is elected.
"I made the decision to terminate my powers as president", Nazarbayev said, speaking on national television channels addressing the people of Kazakhstan.
Following the announcement, Nazarbayev signed a decree on the termination of his powers as the head of state.
"I believe that the time has come for me to sign the relevant decree. Let me read it out: on the authority of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan… I'm terminating from March 20, 2019, my powers as President of the Republic of Kazakhstan," Nazarbayev said.
Nazarbayev said he would retain the post of head of the country's Security Council and leader of the Nur Otan party, and remain a member of the Constitutional Council.
Nazarbayev, 78, held a number of senior posts in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, which was a part of the Soviet Union. He became first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, making him the leader of the second biggest republic within the Soviet Union, in 1989.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Nazarbayev remained in power, becoming president of the independent Republic of Kazakhstan. He won presidential elections in 1991, 1999, 2005, 2011 and 2015. In 1995, Kazakhstan also held a referendum on extending the presidential term until 2000, with the initiative having been supported by more than 95 percent of voters.
Nazarbayev was the last leader of a post-Soviet state who had been heading his country since the Soviet era.