Regional Appointments Made in Kazakhstan After Referendum to Strengthen Local Self Governance

NUR-SULTAN – Over the weekend, Kazakhstan has seen several new appointments of regional (governors) and city akims (mayors) that now follow the new rules designed to strengthen local self-government adopted by the June 5th constitutional referendum.

Akorda residence. Photo credit:

The June 8 decree signed by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev gives the maslikhats (local representative bodies) the right to choose between the two candidates proposed by the President. Previously, the maslikhat was only able to say yes or no to a proposed candidate. Proposing this new mechanism in March, President Tokayev said that it is “essentially indirect elections of regional leaders.”

Nurlan Urankhaev will head the newly formed Abay Region. In an open vote between Nurlan Urankhaev and Askhat Smailov, Urankhaev received 89 votes, and Smailov – 25. Before this appointment, he was head of the capital city’s Department of Architecture, Urban Planning, and Land Relations. Head of the President’ Office Murat Nurtleu introduced the two candidates during a meeting of maslikhats of all levels in the Abai Region in Semey. 

Beibit Isabayev, an Al Farabi Kazakh National University graduate, became the governor of the newly formed Zhetisu Region, garnering 106 votes out of 141. Previously, he chaired the Senate Committee on Socio-Cultural Development and Science. Kazakh Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov was in Taldykorgan to participate in a meeting of deputies of maslikhats of all levels and to introduce the two candidates. 

Smailov also visited Konaev town, the new center of the Almaty Region, to introduce the two candidates for the post of the region’s governor – Batyrzhan Bayzhumanov and Marat Sultangaziyev. In an open vote among 188 deputies, 129 voted in favor of Sultangaziyev, who previously served as the country’s First Vice Minister of Finance. By presidential decree, he was appointed the akim of the Almaty Region.

By presidential decree, Berik Abdigaliuly was appointed governor of the Ulytau Region. Nurtleu visited Zhezkazgan to participate in a meeting of maslikhats of all levels and introduce the two candidates – Berik Abdigaliuly and Serik Shaydarov for the post of governor.

As a result of open voting from 64 deputies, 51 voted for Abdigaliuly, and 13 deputies gave their vote for Shaydarov.

Commenting on the three new regions, Slyamzhar Akhmetzharov, a leading researcher at the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies, said they will contribute to a more balanced economic development of the territories. 

“The heads of these regions will be tasked with increasing the competitiveness of the regions, developing industry, agriculture and other industries, as well as creating new jobs. All this will have a positive effect on the well-being of residents,” he said. 

On June 11, Tokayev also signed a decree reorganizing the Ministry of Education and Science by dividing it into the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science and the Ministry of Higher Education.

The Ministry of Education, which will be headed by Askhat Aimagambetov, will oversee preschool, secondary, technical and professional, post-secondary education, additional education, and protection of children’s rights. Aimagambetov has served as the Minister of Education and Science since June 2019. 

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education, which will be led by Sayasat Nurbek, is to be in charge of higher and postgraduate education, language policy, science, and quality assurance in the field of higher and postgraduate education and science, digitization of higher and postgraduate education. Nurbek has vast experience in the higher education system and science. Before the appointment, he served as a deputy in the Mazhilis, a lower chamber of the Parliament. 

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