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Kazakh leader moves PM Massimov to administration chief

September 24, 2012

Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Karim Massimov attending a press conference at the EU Commission headquarter in Brussels. — File Photo by AFP

ASTANA: Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev on Monday asked Prime Minister Karim Massimov to head his powerful presidential administration amid ongoing jostling to succeed the veteran strongman.

A government source said Massimov's place will be taken by First Deputy Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov — a close ally of Nazarbayev who has also sworn allegiance to the resource-rich nation's only post-Soviet head of state.

“Massimov will head the presidential administration of Kazakhstan,” an unnamed government source told the RIA Novosti news agency.

The Twitter account of the Kazakh president confirmed that Massimov had been dismissed from his old post “in connection with a submitted application” and that a new administration head had been appointed whom it did not name.

The moves still have to be approved by the ruling party-dominated parliament before coming into force.

The 72-year-old Nazarbayev enjoys ultimate power in the Central Asian nation of 17 million and after winning a new five-year term with 95.5 per cent of the vote last year said he had the ability to rule the country for another decade.

But analysts and investors believe this centralisation is a liability for the booming nation — on good terms with world powers and a top global supplier of resources.

The man known as “leader of the nation” (Elbasy) appeared to tear up one succession plan last year by ousting Timur Kulibayev — husband of his daughter Dinara — from a top energy post in the wake of deadly worker strikes.

Premier Massimov was seen by some as Kulibayev's main rival who preferred to stay out of the public limelight and orchestrate policy from behind the scenes.

Investors credit the 47-year-old — at his post since 2007 — at helping raise new Western interest in Kazakhstan through business-friendly policies that include tax and custom tariff breaks for major foreign firms.

Kazakhstan has also been credited by the World Bank with making some of the biggest strides among emerging power nations while achieving strong annual growth of 10 per cent over the preceding decade.

Massimov replaces Aslan Musna as administration chief. An official statement said only that the latter — a man who analysts said has failed to make an impression on Kazakh political circles — had been moved to a different post.

The rubber-stamp parliament is expected to approve the government changes within the coming days.

Massimov — a Chinese and English speaker who also studied Arabic — will then have 10 days to submit a new cabinet lineup for Nazarbayev's approval.