Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev was sworn in for a new five-year term Friday after securing a devastating victory in an election criticized by international observers.
The 70-year old former Communist party boss is now entering his third decade of rule over this oil-rich former Soviet nation, which he has led unchallenged since it gained independence in 1991.
After Nazarbayev's swearing-in, the government tendered its resignation as required by the Constitution, setting the stage for a possible Cabinet shake-up.
Government critics desribe Nazarbayev as an authoritarian leader, although he insisted in his inauguration ceremony that he would usher in a new era of democratic reform.
Thousands turned out to greet Nazarbayev and waved flags as he arrived for the ceremony at the Independence Palace in the capital, Astana.
Nazarbayev said Sunday's election, in which he received 95.6 percent of ballots cast, was a vote for stability and prosperity in the Central Asian nation.
Emphasis will now be placed on enhancing democracy and increasing fairness in the country's justice system, he said.
"We have to find the optimal way of empowering parliament, increasing the government's responsibility and improving the electoral process," he said.
While growing oil-fueled prosperity and political stability have guaranteed Nazarbayev a genuinely high degree of popularity in Kazakhstan, the scale of his victory and the high turnout of 90 percent in the election surprised many international observers.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's election-monitoring arm said the vote was marred by numerous cases of ballot box-stuffing, voter intimidation and a lack of transparency.
Prime Minister Karim Masimov thanked the president in an official statement announcing the government's resignation.
"It is important that the head of state won these elections so confidently. He has a new mandate for the continued development of our country," Masimov said.
The presidential administration has given no clear signal of what changes it might effect to the incoming Cabinet, but many political observers have predicted that Masimov, who has served as Prime Minister since early 2007, could be replaced.
Kazakhstan has much to do if it is to live up to Nazarbayev's promises to boost democracy.
Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party holds every seat in the lower house of parliament and lawmakers last year named him "leader of the nation" _ a title that gives him the right to approve important national and foreign policies after he retires and grants him lifetime immunity from prosecution for acts committed during his rule.
Programming on state television Friday indicated there is little intention of pedaling back on what some have described as a creeping cult of personality devoted to Nazarbayev.
In one program broadcast after the inauguration, young children extensively extolled Nazarbayev's virtues as a guarantor of stability.
"He does everything, even though his job is difficult, he works so that everything will be good for us," one unnamed preschool student told Khabar state television.