Kazakhstan: Ex-prime minister appointed interim president’s chief of staff

ASTANA (TCA) — Kazakhstan’s Interim President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has appointed a recently dismissed prime minister to head his administration, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.

Nursultan Nazarbayev announced he was stepping down as president last week after ruling the energy-rich Central Asian country for nearly 30 years.

Toqaev, who will serve as interim president until a presidential election in April 2020, appointed Bakytzhan Sagintaev as his chief of staff on March 24.

Nazarbayev dismissed Sagintaev from the post of prime minister last month, citing his government’s failure to raise living standards and diversify the economy away from the energy sector.

The 78-year-old Nazarbayev announced on March 19 he was stepping down as president.

He still, however, remains chairman for life of the Kazakh Security Council and chairman of the ruling Nur-Otan party.

On March 23, Toqaev signed a decree to rename the capital, Astana, Nur-Sultan in honor of Nazarbayev, after parliament approved the change.
But some members of the public oppose the name change.

Dozens were detained in the Kazakh capital during rallies against the change on March 21 and 22. Rights activists and critics say Nazarbayev persistently suppressed dissent, prolonged his time in office through undemocratic votes or referendums, and used the levers of power to neutralize potential opponents.

The city is no stranger to changing its name.

It was known as Akmolinsk up till 1961 when it was renamed Tselinograd (meaning “virgin lands city” in Russian). It became Aqmola (“white grave” in Kazakh) after Kazakhstan became independent following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

After the capital was moved from Almaty in southeastern Kazakhstan to Aqmola in 1997, the city was once again renamed, this time to Astana (“capital” in Kazakh).

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Times of Central Asia