Kazakhstan political reshuffle: 72yo president changes government in matter of hours

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Kazakh Prime Minister Karin Masimov, from right to left (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)
Kazakh President Narsultan Nazarbayev has conducted a major reshuffle among top officials, releasing the country’s Prime Minister Karim Masimov and his cabinet from office and appointing Masimov head of the country’s presidential administration.

­The Kazakhstan parliament has already approved the appointment of Serik Akhmetov, the former first-deputy prime minister, a new PM. Akhmetov’s candidacy was nominated by President Narsultan Nazarbayev.

Once the parliament appoints a new PM, the official is obliged to present a new cabinet in 10 days’ time. The candidacies to the new cabinet are to be approved by the president.

The new prime minister is obliged to present the political and economical program of the new cabinet to parliament for approval. If it fails in a vote, a new program must be presented in two months’ time.

The new head of Kazakhstan’s presidential administration Karim Masimov, 47, became the seventh prime minister of independent Kazakhstan (i.e. since December 16, 1991) in 2007 after being the only deputy prime minister in the previous cabinet. Before the final appointment he occupied positions of the head of the National Bank, minister of transport and communications, aide to the head of state and minister of economy and budget planning. Over the last five years of heading the government Karim Masimov has proven to be one of the most talented economic managers of Kazakhstan.

Masimov received his higher education in Russia, China and Kazakhstan. He graduated from the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia in Moscow, continued studies in Wuhan University of Technology in China and the Kazakhstan State Academy of Management, specializing in economics and international jurisprudence, obtaining PhD in 1999. He speaks Kazakh, Russian, Chinese, Arabic and English.


‘Horizontal reshuffle’

­The shifts in the Kazakh government are “homemade” and not terribly unexpected said Kirill Koktysh, associate professor of International Politics at Moscow State University.

Most probably this is a no-confidence motion against the government of Karim Masimov which failed to elaborate an anti-crisis strategy after the crisis started in 2008 hit Kazakhstan.

“It looks like now Kazakhstan is staking on initiating industrial development to find its own way out of the crisis, as opposite to the financial paradigm preached by the former PM,” Koktysh evaluated.

Despite speculations about Kazakh president preparing a successor to take his seat, it is hard to make any predictions for the Kazakh politics. It is true that Karim Masimov retains a high position and will continue to be a possible candidate for the future leadership of the country, but in Kazakhstan there are “at least three” rivaling political clans and Masimov represents only one of them, having equal chances with other politicians, shared Kirill Koktysh.

“In Kazakhstan a position of a politician does not necessarily correlate with his political weight.”

As for relations with Russia, whoever heads Kazakhstan it will be hard to put the Kazakh ship on a course that differs from the one highlighted by President Nazarbayev so any politician is doomed to carry on with the existing course”, believes the expert. Maneuvering between China and Russia, Kazakhstan is much more likely to team up with Moscow.

“The choice is predictable and it does not depend too much of the personalities at the top,” Koktysh concluded.