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New Cabinet Unveiled in Kabardino-Balkaria

A positive budget and decreasing debt seem to have changed President Arsen Kanokov's attitude toward his cabinet

A positive budget and decreasing debt seem to have changed President Arsen Kanokov's attitude toward his cabinet

Arsen Kanokov, who was reappointed in September to serve a second term as president of Kabardino-Balkaria, approved on October 25 the composition of the new cabinet headed by Aleksandr Merkulov, who has served as prime minister for the past year. Although Kanokov had warned in July that only some 50 percent of ministers discharge their duties effectively and risked being fired, the overwhelming majority have retained their portfolios.

The structure of the new government has undergone a slight modification. Merkulov now has one first deputy and four deputies, compared with just three deputies in the outgoing cabinet. Of those three, only Kazim Uyanayev, a Balkar, who was named deputy prime minister in April 2009, has retained his post. The outgoing minister for industry, fuel and energy and housing Adig Abregov, a Kabardian, who succeeded Uyanayev in that post, was named first deputy prime minister. Tembulat Erkenov, who had served since April 2007 as minister of agriculture, Ivan Gerter, and Khauti Sokhrokov are the three new deputy premiers.

Five ministers retained their portfolios, including Azret Bishenov (Finance) and Aliy Musukov (Economic Development and Trade). Yury Tomchak's reappointment as interior minister must be confirmed in Moscow.

Only two ministers have been fired: Mikhail Afashagov (Construction and Architecture), and Mukhamed Sokhov (State Property and Land Resources). But five more have been demoted to the status of "acting," which implies their continued tenure is by no means assured. They are: Vadim Bitsuyev (Health), Bert Glyzev (Environment), Boris Pashtov (Culture), Aniuar Sunshev (Transport and Communications), and Safarbi Shkhagapsoyev (Education and Science). Artur Mamiyev, who took over the construction and architecture portfolio, is similarly "on probation."

That the turnover was considerably lower than Kanokov had previously implied may reflect his belated acknowledgement of ministers' collective contribution to the economic upswing of recent years. In a recent interview with "Kommersant," Kanokov noted that since 2005 the republic's budget has tripled, from 8.6 billion rubles to 25 billion rubles ($825.35 million); the republic's debt to the federal government has been reduced by more than 50 percent -- from 4 billion rubles to 1.2 billion; and the percentage by which the budget is subsidized by the federal government has fallen from 72 percent to 45 percent.

But as local commentator Khazhismel Tkhagapsoyev has pointed out, Kanokov and the new cabinet still have to come to grips with such seemingly intractable challenges as the persistent animosity between the republic's two titular ethnic groups, further reducing unemployment (currently at 12 percent), and containing the mushrooming Islamic insurgency.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.