Thu, Mar 21, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Kazakhstan swears in new leader

Bloomberg

Kazakh Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, bottom, and Mazhilis Chairman Nurlan Nigmatulin, center, applaud Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Kazakhstan yesterday began a new political era, at least formally, as Kazakh Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was sworn in as president, succeeding Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

One of his first acts was to move Nazarbayev’s daughter into contention as a successor.

The Senate unanimously elected Dariga Nazarbayeva as its new chairwoman, putting her formally in the line of succession to the presidency under the constitution.

Tokayev nominated her, the Interfax news service reported.

The move adds intrigue to a presidential handover that signaled the start of a long-forecast transfer of power in central Asia’s largest energy producer.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, 78, has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989 and remains head of the Kazakh Security Council with authority to issue executive orders to state bodies.

Lawmakers in 2010 voted to make him leader for life.

“Tokayev will be a transitional constitutional successor” and Nursultan Nazarbayev might opt for a different figure at the next elections, said George Voloshin, a Paris-based analyst for Aperio Intelligence.

“The real question is: Who will succeed Tokayev as president before or in 2020?” he asked

Elections are scheduled for next year. Tokayev, 65, said he intends to continue Nursultan Nazarbayev’s policies as the second Kazakh president since independence in 1991.

Tokayev is a former Kazakh prime minister and career diplomat who speaks English, Russian and Chinese. With Russia and China watching developments closely, he faces a key task in balancing relations with the nation’s neighbors.

In his inauguration speech, Tokayev proposed renaming the Kazakh capital, Astana, as Nursultan, and said that the central street of every regional city should be called after Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Nursultan Nazarbayev wants to become a Kazakh version of former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), Moscow Carnegie Center senior fellow Alexander Gabuev wrote on Twitter.

Tokayev is among his most trusted allies and “unlikely to pose a challenge to [Nursultan] Nazarbayev’s grip on real power in the future,” he said.

Tokayev’s first challenges include reviving central Asia’s largest economy after Nursultan Nazarbayev last month replaced the government and demanded trillions of tenge in extra spending to boost living standards.

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