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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Masimov to Become Kazakh Premier

APDanial Akhmetov
ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev will nominate Karim Masimov, a business-minded deputy prime minister, as the new prime minister of the oil-producing republic, members of the parliament said Tuesday.

Masimov, a technocrat who speaks five languages and has studied at a U.S. business school, is likely to continue the policies of former Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov, who resigned Monday, senior lawmakers said.

Kazakhstan is emerging as a major source of non-OPEC oil and international oil companies Chevron, Eni SpA and Shell have billions of dollars invested in energy projects there.

The state has been seeking a bigger role in the oil sector, and investors will watch closely to see whether the new prime minister continues this trend.

"Tomorrow the president will name him [Masimov]," one lawmaker said.

Another legislator said his party had "enthusiastically" approved Nazarbayev's proposal.

Nazarbayev's office has not said publicly whom he will be nominating for the post.

The parliament must approve the president's nominee, and a meeting of both houses is planned for Wednesday. Nazarbayev's supporters dominate the parliament.

"Without a doubt, continuity will be preserved," said Amzebek Zholshibekov, leader of the ruling Nur-Otan party's faction in the parliament.

Kazakhstan borders China and Russia and has been run by Nazarbayev since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Its huge oil reserves have made Kazakhstan a key focus in a new "great game" played by the United States, the European Union, China and Russia for control over resources in the crossroads between Europe and Asia.

Masimov, 41, speaks English, Chinese, Arabic, Russian and Kazakh and has a Ph.D. in economics. He has studied at Columbia Business School in the United States as well as at universities in Russia and China.

"This candidate is always ready to engage in dialogue," said Shaimergen Orazalinov, a member of the parliament. "He has an excellent education, and I consider his candidacy accords with the current level of our country's development."

Masimov worked as the chairman of two Kazakh banks. He is seen as a technocrat with a keen interest in banking and securities market reforms.

Some sources in Kazakhstan said he had support from within Nazarbayev's politically influential family and could add impetus to reforms.

Others cautioned that he would above all seek to preserve the policies of Akhmetov, who has been prime minister since June 2003.

Western oil companies had complained about a change in the law -- instigated by Akhmetov -- which states that Kazakhstan's main state oil company must own half of all future investments, while foreign companies bear the burden of exploration costs.