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Kazakh Parliament Approves New Prime Minister

Karim Masimov is a former presidential adviser (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) January 10, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakhstan has a new prime minister as a joint session of parliament today overwhelmingly approved Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's nomination of Karim Masimov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

It took less than one hour for Nazarbaev to present his choice for the country's next prime minister and for parliament to accept Masimov for the post. Thirty-seven of 39 deputies from the Senate and 66 of 77 deputies from the Mazhilis (lower house) voted for Masimov.

Masimov spoke after parliament approved him, thanking the Kazakh president and pledging unswerving allegiance to him.

'Loyal Assistant'

"I want to say one thing," he said. "It is important for me to say now, namely today. Nursultan Abishevich [Nazarabaev], you have always placed great trust in me, naming me your assistant, and I want to say I have been, am, and will be your loyal assistant."

Masimov -- who is an ethnic Uyghur -- is the seventh Kazakh prime minister since the country became independent in late 1991. The 41-year-old new prime minister brings a number of qualifications to the post.

Besides Kazakh and Russian, Masimov reportedly speaks Chinese, English, and Arabic. He studied in Russia, the United States, and China. Masimov worked as minister of transportation and communications and also was the director of two Kazakh banks. His most recent post was deputy prime minister in charge of Kazakhstan's economic development.

Ready For A Multi-Vector Agenda

Masimov seems well-suited to help Kazakhstan pursue stronger relations with Russia, China, and the United States. His ability to speak several key languages is a big advantage as Moscow, Beijing, and Washington are Kazakhstan's major economic partners.

Masimov is credited with being one of the architects of Kazakhstan's strong economic performance since he became an adviser to President Nazarbaev in 2003, though analysts note that was about the same time that Kazakhstan's oil industry started to export large amounts of oil and prices rose on world markets.

Nazarbaev's choice of deputy prime minister was Aslan Musin, who was the minister of economics and budget planning in the previous government of Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov.

Nazarbaev opened today's session of parliament by saying it was time for change in Kazakhstan and that he felt this would best be accomplished by a younger generation.

'A New Generation'

"First of all, we need continuity in the leadership of the executive branch; we need new cadres, new energy and knowledge," he said. "My decision to accept the resignation of the [former] government was based on a desire to attract a new generation of executives to this work."

Nazarbaev has set a number of goals for the country in the coming years and at today's parliament session he again mentioned that he wants Kazakhstan to be one of the world's 50 most economically competitive countries. Other goals previously mentioned are joining the World Trade Organization, getting the OSCE rotating chairmanship for 2009, and even to be the host of the Winter Olympics in 2018.

Akhmetov -- who is 52 -- resigned suddenly for reasons that are still not clear. But some analysts noted that Nazarbaev was not pleased with his spending record and attempts to fight corruption.

Akhmetov remains in the government, however, as Nazarbaev appointed him to be the country's first civilian defense minister.

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

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