BALGIMBAEV’S GOVERNMENT EASED OUT.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 182
On October 1, Nurlan Balgimbaev resigned as prime minister of Kazakhstan. Under the constitution, the prime minister’s resignation entails automatically the resignation of the entire cabinet of ministers. On the same day, President Nursultan Nazarbaev tasked Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev–who holds the rank of a deputy prime minister–to serve as acting prime minister pending the formation of a new cabinet. Nazarbaev, who chaired the outgoing cabinet’s last meeting, indicated that Tokaev is not his final choice and that he will make that choice after the October 10 parliamentary elections, in consultation with the new parliament.
Balgimbaev, 51, had headed the cabinet since October 1997, following the forced resignation of Akezhan Kazhegeldin as prime minister under suspicion of corruption. Balgimbaev’s discharge, however, is an honorable one. Balgimbaev returned on October 1 to his former post as president of the state oil extraction company Kazakhoil–a post which was elevated on the same day to cabinet status, so that Balgimbaev will be a member of the new government. That post had been vacant since Nurlan Kapparov’s forced resignation in August after a policy struggle with Balgimbaev. Kapparov opposed Balgimbaev’s idea to raise budget revenues by selling part of the state’s stock in TengizChevroil, the country’s largest and most lucrative venture.
Nazarbaev credited Balgimbaev and the outgoing government for maintaining macroeconomic stability, a favorable investment climate and the course toward market reforms, despite an adverse international economic environment. The government had to contend with the impact of Russia’s financial crisis and the collapsing prices for Kazakhstan’s main exports–oil and metals. The country’s annual gross domestic product dropped by 2.5 percent in 1998 and is projected to drop by 1.5 percent in 1999. Balgimbaev’s government had to devalue the tenge in April 1999, a move which protected domestic industry from cheap imports but which eroded even further the value of Kazakhstani wages. Last week, the government pressured a reluctant parliament into approving an austerity budget.
On the threshold of parliamentary elections, the pro-presidential parties came to regard this cabinet as a political liability. Leaders of these parties–mainly Otan [Fatherland] and the Civic Party–urged the president to ease out Balgimbaev, in effect jettisoning what they perceive as political ballast ahead of the elections. Nazarbaev’s decision suggests that he shared that perception and that his top priority at the moment is to ensure a landslide for the pro-presidential parties in the parliamentary, regional and municipal elections to be held concurrently on October 10 (Habar, October 1-2).
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