ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AFP) – Kazakhstan’s new President last Sunday appointed a recently dismissed prime minister to head his administration – a move almost certainly approved by the country’s veteran leader, who resigned this week.
The appointment of former Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev as the new President’s Chief of Staff will bolster the view that Kazakhstan’s former President Nursultan Nazarbayev still calls the shots in the oil-rich Central Asian country.
Nazarbayev, who ruled the energy-rich Central Asian nation since before it gained independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, stunned the country last Tuesday by announcing his resignation in a televised address.
The 78-year-old however retains significant powers thanks to his constitutional status as “Leader of the Nation”, life-time position as chief of the security council and head of the ruling party.
Last month, Nazarbayev dismissed Sagintayev as Cabinet chief, citing poor economic performance and analysts suggested his dismissal was aimed at tamping down a simmering protest mood.
Sagintayev, 55, previously served as Economy Minister and Deputy Chairman of the ruling Nur Otan party.
He replaces Asset Issekeshev, who will take up a new position.
After Nazarbayev stepped down, career diplomat and political loyalist Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was sworn into office and proposed renaming the Central Asian nation’s capital in honour of the outgoing President.
After Parliament approved the switch, Tokayev affirmed the name change last Saturday.
Formerly Astana, the capital will now be called Nur-Sultan, or “Sultan of Light” in Kazakh, an order on the presidential website said.
Tokayev 65, was leader of the senate prior to his ascension to the presidency.
That senate position, which is second in line to the head of state according to the constitution, has since been filled by Nazarbayev’s 55-year-old daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva.
Nazarbayeva’s appointment as senate leader is viewed by many as a precursor to her taking over from her father in the long term.