Significance of Premier's Resignation

Significance of Premier's Resignation

Some analysts believe Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov’s replacement could be pivotal in ensuring a smooth transition of power when Nursultan Nazarbaev leaves office, but most suspect that the premier's resignation was in line with the president's policy of rotating senior officials.

Akhmetov resigned on January 8 after four years in power. Under the constitution, the resignation of the prime minister is followed by that of the whole cabinet. The president then appoints a new head of the government and a new cabinet of ministers.

One of the most likely contenders for prime minister is Karim Masimov, deputy prime minister and former assistant to the president. Adilbek Jaksymbekov, head of the president’s administration and Aslan Musin, minister of economy and budget planning, are also in the running, say analysts.

It remains unclear why Akhmetov resigned, but NBCentralAsia watchers point out his cabinet had been criticised for rising inflation, poor results in reducing the reliance of the economy on mineral resources, insufficient funding for social programmes and the sensational investigation into the mass HIV infection of children in Kazakstan’s southern region.

Some observers suggest that Akhmetov’s replacement may play an important part in a possible transfer of power.

“I think the president may step down earlier [than expected],” said Rustem Lebekov, director of the Eurasian Centre for Political Studies, told NBCentralAsia. “Now major strategic steps will be [taken towards] the creation of a structure under which the transition can be realised.”

But other analysts are not so sure. They point out that Nazarbaev has traditionally rotated key government officials and Akhmetov’s departure may not be related to anything in particular.

“It is the president’s approach to change personnel,” said Lebekov. “I don’t think that anyone will suffer a lot from it, since one of the guiding principles of the president is the maintenance of the balance of power [among the political elites].”

Director of the Risk Assessment Group Dosym Satpaev agreed with Lebekov's assessment, rejecting suspicions that the resignation had anything to do with Akhmetov allegedly lobbying on behalf of certain financial and political interest groups, such as the Eurasian Industrial Association, which dominates metallurgy and energy.

"The strengthening of one particular group of course could lead to certain frictions with other groups, and I don't think the president is interested in this, " said Satpaev.

However, a number of observers feel that conflict cannot be avoided. They suggest that if Masimov, the strongest candidate at the moment, is approved as the new head of the government, the political influence of Timur Kulibaev, Nazarbaev’s son-in-law, will increase.

“If Karim Masimov is the new prime minister, it will be to the advantage of the grouping of Timur Kulibaev - with which Masimov is associated,” said Andrei Chebotarev, director of the Alternativa think tank.

(News Briefing Central Asia draws comment and analysis from a broad range of political observers across the region)

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