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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Minnikhanov Elected President of Tatarstan

Lawmakers in Tatarstan unanimously voted Thursday to approve Rustam Minnikhanov as the republic's next president, and they awarded a "lifetime seat" in the local parliament to the outgoing leader, Mintimer Shaimiyev.

Minnikhanov, the oil-rich republic's prime minister, was backed by Shaimiyev as his successor. The 73-year-old leader told President Dmitry Medvedev on Jan. 22 that he did not want to be considered for another term after his fourth as president expires in March.

The Kremlin has been looking to replace the country's longest-serving governors with new blood, and analysts have said Shaimiyev's decision to step back will make it more difficult for other long-term regional bosses to stay in power.

Medvedev nominated Minnikhanov, 52, last week. He has two degrees — in engineering and economics — and is a fan of truck racing. In 2006, he won a Desert Challenge rally in the United Arab Emirates as part of a KamAZ team, according to the Tatarstan-based truck maker's web site.

"This is a man who knows how to do his job without extra words, someone whose words don't differ from his deeds," presidential envoy Grigory Rapota said Thursday in announcing Minnikhanov's candidacy, Interfax reported. "I'm certain he will be a worthy extension of the path chosen by the republic for the good of the people of Tatarstan."

Minnikhanov thanked deputies after the vote and promised that, "We'll work together," the report said. He will be sworn in on March 25.

But despite Minnikhanov's warm reception, Shaimiyev managed to steal the spotlight.

The parliament's speaker, Farid Mukhametshin, thanked him for serving as president since 1991 and offered him a lifetime seat in the parliament as well as an award for his service to Tatarstan. The announcement was followed by an ovation, RIA-Novosti reported.

"I, myself, can hardly imagine how I could just go and not see you all for so long," Shaimiyev told the lawmakers. "If you don't mind, I've already taken a fancy to one of the chairs — that one in the corner."