Kazakhstan got a new prime minister on September 24 after President Nursultan Nazarbayev accepted the resignation of premier Karim Masimov and promoted Masimov’s former deputy, Serik Akhmetov.
Early in the day, Masimov tendered his resignation and Nazarbayev immediately asked the rubberstamp parliament – which contains no opposition parties – to vote on Akhmetov’s candidacy for the job. Deputies obliged with a unanimous vote in favor.
Masimov, who served for nearly six years, is Kazakhstan’s longest-serving prime minister since independence. His removal was long rumored amid suggestions that he had carved out a political powerbase that Nazarbayev – who guards his own enormous power jealously -- might see as a threat.
But Masimov – an affable character credited with steering Kazakhstan through the credit crunch – did not depart in disgrace: Nazarbayev praised his premiership, and Masimov got a powerful new job as head of the presidential administration, making him Nazarbayev’s gatekeeper. Masimov thus retains the influence that has led some analysts to tip him as a possible presidential successor.
As presidential chief of staff Masimov replaces Aslan Musin, a powerful gray cardinal who was dismissed on September 21. Musin got a less-influential position as head of the budget committee.
Akhmetov – a technocrat who previously served as governor of Karaganda Region until being appointed first deputy premier in January – will appoint a new cabinet that is likely to contain many faces from the outgoing government.
Analysts viewed the reshuffle as a routine event designed by Nazarbayev to maintain a balance of power, primarily to ensure that no official becomes influential enough to make a power grab before he is ready to give up office.
“This is a standard decision by the president of Kazakhstan, who considers it necessary to regularly reshuffle his cadres so that no one stays too long,” Yevgeniy Minchenko, director of Russia’s International Institute of Political Expertise, said in remarks quoted by RIA Novosti.
Nazarbayev, known officially as Leader of the Nation, has been in office for over two decades and shows no sign of being ready to step down. He is the sole Kazakhstani citizen with the right to stand in presidential elections for life.