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Kazakh Leader Sacks Government Amid Poverty Protests

The long-serving leader blamed officials for not living up to promises to boost the economy and raise living standards.

22 February 2019

Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev dismissed the government Thursday after castigating officials for failing in their efforts to improve the country’s economy and standard of living.

 

“[W]ork at the governmental level has not been organized effectively. Real earnings of Kazakh citizens are flatlining. The share of food expenses in a family’s budget is increasing,” Nazarbaev said according to the official presidential website, Akorda.

 

Deputy Prime Minister Askar Mamin has been appointed as interim prime minister, RFE/RL reports. Mamin replaces Bakytzhan Sagintaev, who held the position of prime minister since 2016.

 

The drastic step by the only leader independent Kazakhstan has known follows several years of fiscal uncertainty in Central Asia’s most robust economy. Largely dependent on its large crude oil deposits, Kazakhstan’s economy took a hit in 2015 when oil prices plummeted, causing the tenge, Kazakhstan’s currency, to lose nearly 50 percent of its value, Bloomberg reports.

 

He accused the government and the central bank last month of “doing a bad job” at strengthening the economy.

 

 

Recent protests over poor living conditions have brought attention to the human toll of the faltering economy. The protests began after five children died in a house fire in Astana that occurred while their parents worked overnight, trying to make a living.

 

Over the years Nazarbaev, 78, has grown ever stronger, winning elections in overwhelming landslides, according to official figures. In 2007 he orchestrated a law ending presidential term limits, Deutsche Welle reports. He was now in effect ruler for life, if he chose.

 

Critics and activists have accused Nazarbaev of extending his rule by conducting undemocratic votes and suppressing dissent.

 

Nazarbaev said he plans to propose measures to improve social welfare and living conditions at an upcoming conference of his political party, Nur Otan, RFE says.

 

 

  • In January 2017, Nazarbaev handed some of his powers to parliament, including the responsibility for choosing the cabinet and managing the economy, in what was seen as preparation for an eventual transfer of power, DW writes.

 

  • Earlier this month, Nazarbaev asked Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Council to clarify the powers he would hold after leaving office, causing conjecture about his plans to run for president in 2020, according to Bloomberg.
Compiled by Eliza Siegel
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