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Mayor of Almaty replaced with fresh face: analysis

17 august 2015, 20:26
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Baurzhan Baibek ©Turar Kazangapov
Baurzhan Baibek ©Turar Kazangapov
Akhmetzhan Yessimov ©Yaroslav Radlovsky
Akhmetzhan Yessimov ©Yaroslav Radlovsky

Akhmetzhan Yessimov left the post of Akim of Almaty Oblast and has been appointed to lead Astana EXPO-2017, the national company that spearheads Kazakhstan's preparations for the EXPO. A young face on the Kazakh political scene Baurzhan Baibek, previously First Deputy Chairman of Nur Otan party, Baurzhan Baibek  has been appointed as new Akim of Almaty on August 9 by President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. 

According to the President, Yessimov is now needed to organize the international exhibition, which is supposed to promote Kazakhstan and give the country a new impetus for technological development. Nazarbayev also pointed out that Baibek was the first alumni of Bolashak eduction program (a state-sponsored scholarship designed to give talented young Kazakhstanis an opportunity to receive education at top universities abroad) to be appointed to such an important position due to his substantial experience.

Kazakhstani political analysts Andrey Chebotarev and Dosym Satpayev talked to Tengrinews about the meaning of the new appointments. The first believes that both appointments are a sign of trust that the President put into the two men. The second thinks Yessimov was downgraded, and Baibek’s appointment was a way to encourage the younger generation of civil servants. 

Director of the Center of Topical Research Alternative Andrey Chebotarev contended that rotation of high-level officials was a normal occurrence. Yessimov had served as Akim (Mayor) of Almaty for quite a long time - since 2008. The expert believes that appointing Yessimov as head of the National Company Astana EXPO - 2017 was a sign of confidence that the President had in him.

“EXPO is very important. In addition, the event has an aura of scandal because of the incident that occurred with the former head of the company. Therefore, the President had to find somebody with a combination of high professional management skills and somebody he could trust completely to prevent any further corruption scandals," the expert explained. 

Chebotarev added that Yessimov had occupied various government positions throughout his career, which gave him a solid experience. Therefore, appointing Yessimov at the helm of EXPO only showed that he had the capacity to solve pressing problems. 

“Many members of the political elite are assigned to certain jobs in this way. This does not mean a downgrade. This is a temporary appointment to the place where certain issues need solving. Afterwards, they are returned to key positions," Chebotarev said.

Director of Risk Assessment Group Dosym Satpayev expressed confidence that quite the opposite scenario was taking place. "This is a downgrade for Akhmetzhan Yessimov," he declared.

"Despite the fact that EXPO is a image project, it is still a local event that will end sooner or later,” Satpayev said.

He allowed for the notion that Yessimov was appointed to bring order after the corruption scandal. But added that one had to bear in mind that the Mayor of Astana Adilbek Dzhaksybekov was already responsible to a certain extent for holding the international exhibition in his city.

So the question i9s what Yessimov will be doing after the EXPO 2017 is over. Considering his experience and position in the hierarchy of public officials in Kazakhstan, there are not very many options that can be offered to him. Satpayev predicted that Yessimov would either return to the government or get an appointment to the Presidential Administration or Samruk Kazyna Wealth Fund.

As for the appointment of Baurzhan Baibek as Akim of Almaty, Andrey Chebotarev believes that this is an indicator of great trust. The director of Risk Assessment Group Dosym Satpayev believes that this appointment should be viewed as a demonstration of the opportunities available for the new generation of politicians in Kazakhstan.

Chebotarev said that Baibek’s appointment was a test of his capacity to work independently. "This is an indicator of great trust, because he has shown himself well at the national level. He hasn’t been involved in any scandals. Now, he is assigned an important task. In my opinion, when you work at a central level, you have some backup. So this will be a good experience for Baibek because he had not led a region before," Chebotarev said.

Satpayev pointed out the importance of the appointment for young professionals in Kazakhstan. "It allows young professionals to show themselves in practice, not only to occupy 'a warm place' in a party or associated structures, but to be out in the field to demonstrate their abilities as managers," Satpayev said.

It will not be an easy task for Baibek. He needs to address the issue of security from natural and man-made disasters (Almaty is located in the area threatened by earthquakes and mud-floods) and construct new infrastructure. Many also expect the new Akim to develop the city not only business-wise but also in terms of culture. Therefore much will depend on his team. There were good experts on the team of the previous Akim, so Satpayev thinks it is not the time for Baibek to conduct a serious purge and reshuffle the city administration.

Satpayev added that making high level appointments on weekends - the two appointments came on Sunday August 9 - was a tradition of the Kazakhstani political system.

“As for the unexpectedness, well, there is an unwritten law: if the President leaves for a short vacation, one should expect changes, because he often makes decisions on personnel precisely during such periods," Satpayev said.

Explaining why the appointments came so abruptly, another political analyst Yerlan Karin remarked it had to do with implementation of presidential reforms. This is the main point on the agenda for all levels of the government at the moment – for the Parliament, the regional administrations and the ruling party.

"There emerges a new generation of managers who will have to act as middlemen of these reforms," Karin said.

Reporting by Renat Tashkinbayev and Vladimir Prokopenko, writing by Dinara Urazova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina


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