Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has unexpectedly reshuffled key government positions on Wednesday (18 December), three weeks after signing a law that makes cabinet ministers directly responsible for corruption among their subordinates.
Nurlan Nogayev replaced Kanat Bozumbayev in the key role of the energy minister of the oil and gas exporting Central Asian nation. Bozumbayev was named as a presidential aide.
Nogayev, an oilman and energy specialist by training, was previously the governor of the Atyrau Region. Under his leadership, the region experienced big land reform protests in 2016 but Nogayev then promised not to prosecute two organisers of the protest.
Following his appointment, he told journalist he had “kept his word”, explaining that the activists were prosecuted and convicted for “other reasons.”
According to an official press release, Tokayev already talked with the new energy minister and “the meeting focused on cooperation with major global and domestic companies in the oil and gas, and energy sectors.”
The new energy minister will have to fill the post of his deputy, considered by some to be “cursed” as three previous occupants are now detained on corruption charges.
Nogayev will have to be careful in his choice, as Tokayev on 28 November signed a law making ministers and governors directly responsible for corruption among subordinates. The law obliges ministers and governors to resign if the top officials in their institutions are found guilty of corruption.
Tokayev also removed Darkhan Kaletayev as deputy chief of staff, a position he had occupied since March, without giving obvious reasons. Maulen Ashimbayev, previously the deputy chair of the ruling party and presidential aide until now, was named as Kaletayev’s replacement.
Imangali Tasmagambetov was relieved from the post of the Kazakh Ambassador to Russia, one of the key diplomatic post for a nation that pursues ‘multi-vector’ foreign policy.
Tasmagambetov, a political heavyweight, has previously occupied leading positions in the Kazakh government, including that of prime minister, defence minister, and presidential aide.
Tasmagambetov turned 63 this month and reached the retirement age of Kazakhstan, which was given as the reason for his removal. Tokayev, who is 66 years old, has not yet appointed a new ambassador.
Madina Abylkassymova was relieved from her position as deputy chair of the National Bank and was appointed as the chairwoman of the newly created financial market regulatory agency, separated from the National Bank.
The new agency will regulate and develop the financial market, set standards for the activities of financial organisations and create incentives for improving the corporate governance of financial organisations, according to Kazakh media.
President Tokayev “gave Abylkasymova a number of specific instructions to ensure the stability of the banking system and development of the financial sector,” said an official press release.
Tokayev, the political “child” of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev who ruled Kazakhstan since Soviet times, was overwhelmingly elected as the new leader of the country last June. In his first state-of-the-nation address last September, he promised to oppose ‘unsystematic political liberalisation’ and instead carry reforms ‘without running ahead’.
Nazarbayev, who holds the honorary title of “Leader of the Nation”, is still active in the various foreign affairs formats he initiated.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]