Two days after his return to Kazakhstan from six months’ absence abroad, former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin was elected head of Kazakhstan’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (UIE). This is the post Kazhegeldin held before he was appointed premier in 1994. (Delovaya nedelya [Almaty], March 12; Panorama [Almaty], March 13)
Kazhegeldin’s return may impinge on President Nazarbaev’s relationship with Nurlan Balgimbaev, the current prime minister. On March 12, Nazarbaev favored Kazhegeldin with the national medal of honor, an award previously given only to active government ministers. Nazarbaev explained the gesture as a mark of appreciation for Kazhegeldin’s role in market reform. He continued, however, by criticizing President Balgimbaev for the recent deterioration in relations with Tractebel, the Belgian utilities company. Nazarbaev then concluded with a prediction that Kazhegeldin would soon return to active politics.
The UIE will provide Kazhegeldin with a springboard to pursue his economic interests and political ambitions. The union was quite influential in the early years of Kazakhstan’s independence, notably in the role it played in the adoption of the land privatization law. As Prime Minister, Kazhegeldin accumulated substantial economic interests. Under his leadership, the UIE may well develop into an independent financial force — as Kazhegeldin has indicated — possibly a political party in its own right.
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