Kazakhstan’s septuagenarian leader Nursultan Nazarbayev has issued a heartfelt call for public servants to step aside after 25 years in the job and make way for fresh blood.
The long-serving president did not immediately announce any plans to step down from his own post, which he has held for a quarter of a century.
“It is necessary to establish a clear position on public servants retiring when they reach the legal retirement age,” Nazarbayev — who, at 75, is 12 years past the usual retirement age for men of 63 — told a Cabinet meeting in remarks quoted by Tengri News.
“That’s enough. For 25 years [some public servants] have been holding on … It’s time to go,” he said, without evident signs of irony.
Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, first as its communist leader under the Soviet Union and then as president of an independent state since 1991.
Under legislation passed in 2010 granting him the title of Leader of the Nation, he is exempt from the usual two constitutional presidential term limits and can stand for re-election for the rest of his life. He was last re-elected in April with 98 percent of the vote.
At the Cabinet meeting, Nazarbayev warned that there was no place for life-long appointees in his country. Senior public servants should not think themselves irreplaceable and stop telling him “stick with me — the next person will be even worse,” Nazarbayev said, in remarks that are assumed not to have been a reference to himself.
Nazarbayev was chairing an at times stormy Cabinet session discussing the economic crisis that is roiling the country. Officials announced that the economy had grown by just 1 percent so far this year, well below the annual forecast of 1.5 percent.
An irate Nazarbayev threatened to fire finance minister Bakhyt Sultanov and warned the government to buckle down and tackle the financial crisis that is derailing prosperity — and threatening to undermine his legacy.
Nazarbayev warned that yet more spending cuts may be required. Authorities had previously pledged to ringfence social spending, but they are already cutting back indirectly in some ways, such as with the plans to end bread subsidies, for example.
But looking on the bright side, Nazarbayev mused that times of crisis bring opportunity as well as gloom.
“When a chrysalis starts growing wings, its shoulders ache a lot. We are experiencing this sort of moment,” Tengri News quoted him as saying. “It is a painful transition in order to fly later.”