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Central Asia news

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev formed a new government

12.01.2007 14:21 msk

Vremya Novostei

Analytics Kazakhstan

Most ministers of the old government retained their positions. The president's favorite Karim Masimov, 41, became the new prime minister. With his sheepskins from Russian and Chinese universities, economist Masimov came up with a number of ambitious strategic ideas concerning the future development of Kazakhstan when he was a deputy premier. Now that the premiership is his, he may actually try and put his plans into motion. Having replaced the heads of only three ministries, President Nursultan Nazarbayev executed a complicated staff shuffle whose analysis indicates that he is angling for considerable changes in the domestic and foreign policy.

2007 is not going to be an easy year. Come December, official Astana will try to pass the test for the privilege of becoming OSCE chairman in 2009. OSCE Council of Ministers met in December 2006 to settle the matter and failed to select its future chairman for the first time in history of the organization. Selection required a consensus and Kazakhstan that had applied was found inadequate by international standards of democracy. Astana was given a year to show that it can do better than that.

Analysis of the staff shuffle in the upper echelons of state power indicates that Nazarbayev is not happy with the existing political landscape. Kasymjomart Tokayev, Foreign Minister for many years save for the period when he was the prime minister, became a senator. As a matter of fact, Tokayev became chairman of the upper house of the parliament i.e. the second senior state official in the country by the acting Constitution. Previous Chairman Nurtai Abykayev became ambassador to Russia. Nazarbayev killed two birds with one stone. For starters, he forestalled the unpleasant scenario of power transfer in emergencies like the one that happened in the neighbor country when the Leader of all Turkmens suddenly passed away. Saparmurat Niyazov's death in Ashkhabad was reported simultaneously with the news concerning the arrest of Parliament Chairman Atayev who was supposed to become acting president. Niyazov's inner circle did not want Atayev and was compelled to act fast. What it did was not particularly nice.

The situation in Astana is analogous. Should something untoward happen, Abykayev will become acting president. Nazarbayev's inner circle does not want it. The idea is an abomination to the president's daughter Dariga and her husband Rahat Aliyev, the head of a powerful oligarchic clan. Abykayev's enemies deliberately implicated him in connection with assassination of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev in February 2006. The head of his senatorial apparat was identified as the man who had ordered and arranged the assassination...

Secretary of the Security Council Marat Tajin became the new Foreign Minister and his former position was turned over to Kazakh Ambassador in Washington Kanat Saudybayev urgently summoned back to Astana. Well-informed and trustworthy analysts in Astana believe that this particular combination is supposed to help the national leadership in the so called Kazakhgate affair (corruption scandal US courts will begin pondering next month).

And here we come to what really matters. The staff shuffle where state officials change places with one another (since there are practically no new faces in the new Cabinet) is but a prelude to the announcement of the program of political reforms which Nazarbayev has been promising the country for some time already. According to what information is available at this point, the program may be presented at the meeting of the National Commission for Democratization Affairs (colloquially known as the NKVD) in late January.

Arkady Dubnov

Vremya Novostei, January 12, 2007, p. 4

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru